LULAC Says Texas Fails ESL Students

     
     TYLER, Texas (CN) - English as a Second Language courses in Texas middle and high schools are so poorly supervised that students "continue to perform abysmally," the League of United Latin American Citizens claims in a federal class action.
     LULAC on Tuesday sued the state, Texas Education Agency Commissioner Michael Williams and two San Antonio-area school districts - Southwest Independent School District and North East Independent School District.
     LULAC claims English language learner (ELL) students across the state perform so poorly "due to the grossly deficient language programs" at the local level and that the state fails to monitor and intervene effectively in failing programs.
     "Consequently, tens of thousands of ELL students across Texas are not acquiring English proficiency as required under the Equal Educational Opportunities Act and little is being done about it," the 27-page complaint states.
     The suit is a continuation of a 2006 lawsuit that made similar allegations against the Texas Education Agency.
     A federal trial judge ruled in LULAC's favor in 2008, but the 5th Circuit reversed two years later, concluding that the agency's monitoring had been in effect for only two years and needed more time.
     LULAC's attorney, David G. Hinojosa with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund in San Antonio, said Tuesday that the 5th Circuit remanded instead of dismissing it outright because of the "alarming" performance of ELL students.
     The New Orleans-based appeals court suggested LULAC add school districts to the lawsuit to better assess fault for the poor performances, Hinojosa said.
     "When one out of every two long-term ELL students is not advancing in English today, this shows that things have not changed," Hinojosa said in a statement. "This lawsuit should be the wake-up call that is needed to spur positive, affirmative action by the school districts and the state of Texas once and for all."
     LULAC claims the two defendant school districts do not have well-trained, ESL-certified teachers in secondary schools. Neither school district provides essential materials and textbooks for the ESL programs, not do they give teachers necessary resources to implement effective programs, according to the complaint.
     "Statewide, a large percentage of ELL students who are reported to have attended U.S. schools for six or more years did not progress at least one proficiency level on the TELPAS [Texas English Language Proficiency Assessment System] from 2013 to 2014," the complaint states. "According to the 2014 TELPAS Statewide Preliminary Summary Report, more than one out of every two ELL students (56%) in grades three through twelve failed to advance at least one proficiency level."
     Southwest Independent School District spokeswoman Adriana Garcia said today that her school district has not been served. "We believe in the education of all students from all backgrounds and we look forward to sharing our academic progress," Garcia said.
     Brian Gottardy, North East Independent School District superintendent, said Tuesday that the school district had not been served with the lawsuit yet. He said his district is "fully committed to equal educational opportunities for all students."
     LULAC seeks a declaration that the state's ESL monitoring is insufficient under the Equal Educational Opportunities Act and an injunction imposing corrections.