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NCLB Outrages

Board of Education sued over eighth-grade algebra testing

Note that the State Board's
defense is that they have to require Algebra
for 8th graders in order to make sure the state
complies with the testing provisions of the
federal No Child Left Behind act.


By Hudson Sangree

A controversial decision that requires all
California eighth-graders to be tested in
algebra has started a court fight between
groups representing local schools and the State
Board of Education.

Two organizations that advocate for hundreds of
school districts and thousands of school
officials are suing the board over its July 9
vote to require eighth-grade algebra tests.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger had urged board
members in a letter to make the change. Others
opposed it because they said not all 13- and
14-year-olds were ready for the abstractions
and unknowns of algebra.

The California School Boards Association and
the Association of California School
Administrators filed their complaint late last
week in Sacramento Superior Court.

In the 21-page filing, the groups claim the
board failed to give adequate notice prior to
its July 9 meeting that it would be considering
a change of such dramatic proportions. "This
was a huge change in public policy done at the
last minute, with no opportunity for school
districts to weigh in," said Holly Jacobson,
assistant executive director of the School
Boards Association.

The lawsuit also claims board members appointed
by the governor exceeded their authority by
effectively changing the state's curriculum for
middle-school math ΓΆ€“ a task that belongs to the
Legislature.

Lawmakers had recently designated algebra as a
high school subject, Jacobson said.

"By requiring that all eighth-grade students
take the Algebra 1 end-of-course examination,
the SBE has essentially required that all
eighth-grade students learn and be taught
Algebra 1," reads the complaint.

The lawsuit asks a judge to declare the board's
actions "null and void."

The head attorney for the Board of Education
said Monday that the dispute is a matter of
legal interpretation for a judge to decide.

"It really comes down to whether the
description the board did post was legally
sufficient," said Chief Counsel Donna Neville.

She said the board has responsibility for
making sure the state complies with the testing
provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind
act.

"What the state board did at the meeting was
adopt an Algebra 1 exam," Neville said. "They
are charged with complying with the (federal)
law."

The Schwarzenegger administration echoed that
opinion. "We believe the state board acted
legally, responsibly, and in the best interests
of California schoolchildren by increasing
academic standards," said Camille Anderson, a
spokeswoman for the governor.

— Hudson Sangree
Sacramento Bee
2008-09-09


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