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New Exit Exam Suit Rejected

Judge rules the state did not violate the law when it required high school students to pass the test.

May 17, 2006|Jill Leovy | Times Staff Writer

An Alameda County Superior Court judge Tuesday dealt a defeat to activists hoping to further weaken the embattled state high school exit exam.

Judge Robert B. Freedman, who last week handed a major victory to opponents of the exam by clearing the way for thousands of seniors who failed the test to graduate, rejected another lawsuit with similar aims.

The basis of the two suits differed, however. Unlike the plaintiffs involved in last week's decision, who had argued their case on the basis of the state Constitution, Californians for Justice Education Fund, a grass-roots advocacy group, argued its case on the basis of state laws.

They contended the state had violated its own laws in adopting the exam. A California statute required the study of alternatives before adopting the exam, but the state only belatedly attempted to make such a study, the suit said.

Freedman "did not agree that the state was late. He didn't feel the timeline was that clear," said Solomon Rivera, spokesman for the plaintiffs.

State Supt. of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell applauded Tuesday's ruling, even while expressing continued frustration with the judge's previous decision.

In a written statement released Tuesday afternoon, O'Connell said that the latest decision allows the state to focus on trying to keep the exam as "a cornerstone of California's school accountability system." But he remained "concerned about the disruption to school districts and the mixed message sent to students as a result of last week's ruling," it said.

The state plans to appeal that ruling, in which Freedman decided in favor of a group of students and parents who had argued for eliminating the test on behalf of impoverished and minority students who they said don't have an equal chance to pass it because they attend low-performing schools.

Californians for Justice Education Fund still believes the exam violates state statutes and may consider an appeal, Rivera said.

Tuesday's decision has no effect on Freedman's ruling last week. The fate of tens of thousands of California public high school seniors who have failed the exam this year, the first year it was required for graduation, remains in question.

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