Limited-English students trial halted
The case is before U.S. District Judge William Wayne Justice, who first ordered the state to improve education for limited-English students 35 years ago. Justice recessed the trial after lawyers for the civil rights groups complained that the Texas attorney general's office had withheld new data determining whether certain school districts needed intervention to beef up their bilingual education programs and whether the state would monitor those school districts.
"What they made available to us is the same thing they made available to the general public. Meanwhile, behind closed doors, they're looking at the more recent data and they're saying, 'You have to wait until we put it up on the Web site in November,' " said Roger Rice, a lawyer for Multicultural Education Training and Advocacy Associates, which specializes in bilingual issues. "The judge felt it's unfair, and it is unfair."
Justice stopped the trial because, he said, "I want both sides to have the benefit of the newest data." Lawyers for the state declined to discuss the case. The Texas Education Agency relies on a performance-based monitoring system to track how well students with limited English proficiency are performing in every school district, said Tom Kelley, spokesman for Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott.
"Only today, MALDEF asked to analyze data used by the TEA over the past few weeks in an effort to conduct interventions in these programs," Kelley said in a written statement. "This party has not previously requested this specific information, but the TEA will nonetheless provide this testing data for pinpointing interventions to be made in over 300 school districts in 2006."
Limited-English students struggle severely on the state's standard Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test, commonly known as the TAKS test. While 75 percent of seventh-grade Anglo students met the standard on all tests for the 2004-05 school year, only 16 percent of limited-English students met that standard.
In the ninth grade, 73 percent of Anglo students met the standard, compared
with 13 percent for limited-English students. In the 11th grade, 82 percent of
Anglo students met the standard, compared with 19 percent for limited-English
students. The civil rights groups want Justice to issue an injunction that
requires the state to honor the existing court order to provide equal
educational opportunities for all children.