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LAUSD BOSS DECRIES STATE ENGLISH TEST.

Byline: David R. Baker Daily News Staff Writer

Speaking at a crowded town hall meeting on education, Los Angeles schools Superintendent Ruben Zacarias on Sunday blasted a state mandate to test all students in English, whether they speak the language or not.

Zacarias supported his school district's effort to tell parents, in a letter sent earlier this month, that they could opt out of the standardized tests.

He rejected criticism that the letter was an attempt to raise local test scores by reducing the number of children with limited English skills taking the exams.

``It was not meant as subterfuge,'' Zacarias told parents gathered at a Bel-Air elementary school. ``It was not meant to hype-up scores.''

He said the state requirements were unfair to kids still learning English.``I think it's ridiculous - we're going to put a test in front of kids who can't even read the instructions,'' he said.

The state requirements, and the Los Angeles Unified School District's response to them, were among the more actively debated topics in Sunday's education forum, sponsored by the Jewish Federation's Jewish Community Relations Committee. About 100 parents met with state and local officials to discuss public education's current condition and future.

The meeting came at a time when several California school districts are protesting, or openly defying, the state's English testing mandate. San Francisco's board of education voted unanimously last week to reject the tests for students with limited English skills.

State schools chief Delaine Eastin, who gave the town hall meeting's keynote address, has threatened legal action if San Francisco does not comply with the mandate. Although she repeated that warning Sunday, she also said the law should be changed.

As for Los Angeles, Eastin said there was no reason to pursue legal action against the district over the letter. State officials last week began investigating whether the letter broke the law, but Eastin said that the statute contains no punishment for what the district is doing.

``I can't repossess your furniture because you got a speeding ticket,'' she said.

Zacarias said the district sent similar letters last year without provoking criticism.

The testing program drew both support and complaints from those attending the forum, which also covered such issues as creating charter schools and holding students and teachers accountable for academic performance.

``What am I to think of a letter like that and what appears to be an effort to hype test scores?'' Sherman Oaks resident Steve Meister asked Zacarias.

Meister said that administering the tests to students with limited English skills would give the district a way to measure how much work needs to be done with those students.

But Noel Park of San Pedro said the testing program was nothing but a political ploy to make public education look bad by lowering test scores.

``I think to make kids take a test in a language they don't understand, the word that comes to my mind is evil,'' he said.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Mar 23, 1998
Words:492
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