Los Angeles Times
Friday, March 20, 1998
L.A. Unified's Notice About Testing Angers State
SMITH, Times Education Writer
After backing off from filing a suit to exclude bilingual students from
statewide testing in English, Los Angeles school administrators have aroused
the ire of state officials with a letter to parents advising them that
they can refuse to have their children tested.
A spokesman for Gov. Pete Wilson, who pushed
for the testing of all students in English for the first time this year,
lambasted the letter Thursday as an attempt to circumvent the state's first
"I think this memo is clearly in defiance
of the regulations passed by the State Board of Education with respect
to lobbying parents," said Dan Edwards, educational spokesman for
A spokesman for the Los Angeles Unified School
District said the letter, and translations in every major language spoken
by Los Angeles students, has been distributed to schools and will continue
to be sent home with children.
The district sent a similar letter last year
without being criticized, said Brad Sales, spokesman for Supt. Ruben Zacarias.
"We're a little perplexed as to why
some of the officials at the state level seem exercised over it this time,"
The requirement that every student in the
state take the test in English--regardless of whether that is their primary
language--has caused rumblings up and down the state, especially in large
urban districts with a high percentage of students in bilingual programs.
School officials contend that testing students
in a language they do not read, or read poorly, is degrading and will give
a distorted picture of the students' educational performance.
This week the San Francisco Board of Education
voted to defy the state law by not giving the test in English to students
who are designated as limited English-speaking and who have been enrolled
in the district for less than 30 months.
State Supt. of Instruction Delaine Eastin
has drafted a letter to the district saying the state will take legal action
if the district does not rescind the decision, spokesman Doug Stone said.
The law that established the statewide test
explicitly gives parents the right to keep their children out of the test
by informing their school in writing, but says "the school district
and its employees shall not solicit or encourage any written requests on
behalf of any child."
"It's our attorney's belief that they're
very close to the line of advocacy," Stone said.
At least two other districts--Irvine Unified
and San Diego City--have informed parents that they can notify the school
not to test their children.
In addition to the letter, the notification
to Los Angeles parents includes a form parents can use to instruct the
school not to test their child.
Edwards said that the "fill-in-the-blanks"
attachment clearly crossed the line on soliciting or encouraging.