Testing Related Lawsuits Filed

K-12 Testing

A group of Ohio residents has filed a lawsuit claiming the state’s system of public school financing produces lower test scores in poorly funded districts and unfairly penalizes students, staff and schools. The suit seeks to bar the state from using lower test scores to punish schools and students until Ohio improves its public education funding system.


Previously, the Ohio Supreme Court found the system unconstitutional due to wide disparities in funding among school districts. The legislature is considering a new formula that would better meet state constitutional mandates to provide a “thorough and efficient” system of public education.


The new suit alleges that given such “gross disparities” in funding, the state should be prevented from holding all students to the same standards of achievement. Success in court will not eliminate the state’s testing program, but will prevent the use of tests for high-stakes decisions such as promotion or graduation until a constitutional financing formula is implemented. The state recently revamped its testing program, dropping a grade 4 test-based promotion policy, but retaining a high school exit exam and expanding the overall amount of testing.


“Inadequate school funding is one of the main reasons for the low assessment performance of Ohio’s poorest children,” said Jenny Rytel, an Upper Arlington parent activist. “We want the state to provide a high-quality education to all of Ohio’s children first.”


• For more information contact Mary O’Brien, Ohio Proficiency Test Protestors, (614) 487-0477; sobrien@ columbus.rr.com.


Disability Rights Advocates (DRA), an Oakland-based non-profit law firm, brought suit against the California Education Department in May, alleging that the state’s testing program discriminates against special needs students.


Plaintiffs claim the exam fails to provide for alternate assessments and appropriate accommodations for students with learning disabilities. There is neither a procedure for requesting accommodations, nor a process for appealing decisions made about accommodations at the local level.


“In a rush to implement education reforms, the high school exit exam was incompetently devised,” says Alison Aubry, attorney for DRA. She claims students are often given conflicting information about accommodations. not given all the accommodations specified in their individualized education plan, or both.


A similar suit filed by DRA in Oregon was recently settled when that state agreed to amend its regulations on testing accommodations to match recommendations provided by an expert review panel (see Examiner, Spring 1999).