Standards Spawn Court Fight
by Joann Loviglio, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, June 08, 2004
For more articles like this
The state is failing the children in its fifth-largest school
district, which has a large number of children who live in
poverty and understand little English, by holding them to the
same academic standards as their counterparts in wealthier
districts, an attorney for the Reading School District argued
"It's ludicrous to give our Spanish-speaking kids a test in
English -- a test they cannot understand -- and then say that
they failed it," attorney Richard L. Guida argued before a
three-judge Commonwealth Court panel. "We're failing them ...
It's not fair to the kids and it's not fair to the school
The Reading School District sued the state Department of
Education in December, objecting to the state's classifying 13
of its 19 schools as failing to meet academic standards under
the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
Education Department attorney Ann G. St. Ledger told the judges
that the state's hands are somewhat tied because it must act
within the guidelines outlined by the federal legislation. She
also argued that the state has not had enough time to develop
Spanish-language assessment tests but that it plans to do so.
The school district wants to prevent the state from imposing any
sanctions until the department provides assessment tests in
Spanish and until the district receives financial assistance
that "fully funds" the cost of complying with the law.
Some of the 13 schools were placed on a school-improvement list,
meaning they had failed to make "adequate yearly progress" for
two consecutive years, while others were placed on a warning
list for failing to meet the academic goals for the first time.
The school district also argues that the state Department of
Education was providing no financial assistance to help them
comply with requirements. Officials in Reading say 64 percent of
the district's 16,000 students are Hispanic and 15 percent have
limited English proficiency.
In Pennsylvania -- where results are measured through the
Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests administered in
grades five, eight and 11 -- officials have established that
schools should start with at least 45 percent of students
proficient in reading and 35 percent proficient in math.
"My concern is that this act doesn't deal with what it's
supposed to correct," President Judge James Gardner Colins said.
Reading, the fifth-largest of Pennsylvania's 501 school
districts, is the first to file a lawsuit contesting its
schools' classifications under the act, which was signed by
President Bush in 2002. It was unknown when the judges would
issue a ruling.
back to the top ~
back to Breaking News
~ back to