Appeals Court asked for quick decision in California High School Exit Exam case

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Thursday, May 25, 2006

Lawyers for students who sued to stop the use of the California High School Exit Exam today filed a request for an expedited hearing of their case in appellate court, hoping to have the test set aside in time for graduation.

"It would be tragic if students were deprived of the once in a lifetime opportunity to graduate with their classmates due to scheduling issues in this matter," according to the text of the appeal filed in Division Four of the First Appellate District.

Today's filing fulfills a promise made by lead attorney Arturo Gonzalez yesterday after the State Supreme Court issued a stay of an Alameda County Superior Court judge's order that the test not be used to determine graduation. ""Our clients are disappointed in today's 4-3 split decision of the California Supreme Court. However, this fight is not over," Gonzalez said, " We intend to seek immediate relief in the court of appeals in San Francisco. We are hopeful that oral argument can be scheduled in time to obtain an order that would allow the Class of 2006 to graduate."

On May 12, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Robert Freedman decided that the test was unfair and unconstitutional and issued an injunction against the use of the test. The following week, attorneys for State Superintendent of Schools Jack O'Connell, author and avid supporter of the law requiring the test, appealed Freedman's decision directly to the State Supreme Court, asking the court to stay the effect of the injunction immediately and to over rule it. Yesterday, the court issued the stay, but send the state's appeal down to the appellate court.

"Yesterday, the Supreme Court noted that it was "not persuaded" that the injunction was the appropriate remedy," according to the papers filed in court today. "It stayed the injunction and remanded the case to this Court with instructions to "establish a schedule for expedited briefing and argument."

"Plaintiffs respectfully submit that, if the schedule established by this Court does not allow for a decision on the remedy issued by the trial court before the bulk of high school graduations have taken place, then that schedule cannot be considered to be expedited," according to the filing, "There is only one issue that needs to be decided by this Court prior to the pending high school graduations — whether, assuming Plaintiffs prevail on their constitutional claims, the injunction granted by the trial court was an appropriate remedy."

In the filing, lawyers for Liliana Valenzuela, et al., who sued in February to have the test set aside so she and the other students involved in the case could graduate, remind the appellate court that the State Supreme Court needed only a few days to reach its decision.

"With the majority of graduations occurring in early June, Plaintiffs respectfully submit that it is a reasonable interpretation of the Supreme Court's Order to set a hearing for this matter next week," lawyers wrote in the filing. Cynthia O'Brien, who oversees testing at James Logan High School in Union City, expressed some exasperation over the on-again, off-again situation regarding the test. "What is happening at this time with the emotional lives of students who are in limbo is not reasonable or in their best interest" she said. "Although the exam's intention is to create a better education environment for students (my words), it is now more about politics than the students."

However, she's not opposed to the test itself. "I believe that the intent of minimum proficiencies is in the right direction. We do a disservice to students who are not prepared to compete in their adult world," she told the James Logan Courier, " I do believe that the State needs to study real alternate paths that could be pursued, such as using proficiency on STAR, a senior project demonstrating both math and English proficiency or some other pathway."

Sources

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The author releases this story to Wikinews under the Creative Commons 2.5 license.

Patrick Hannigan. "Appeals Court Asked for Quick Decision in Exit Exam Case" — The James Logan Courier, May 25, 2006

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