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Judge refuses state's request on limited-English overhaul

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A federal judge has rejected the state's request to postpone his order to develop a new language program for 140,000 students with limited English proficiency in Texas middle schools and high schools.

U.S. District Judge William Wayne Justice said the program must be fixed by fall. The state had requested the delay while it appealed the order.

"The time has come to put a halt to the failed secondary English as a Second Language program and monitoring system" in Texas, Justice wrote in a ruling released Friday.

In his original order in July, he said the improvements had to be in place by the start of the 2009-10 school year. A preliminary plan is due Jan. 31. State officials could still request a stay of Justice's order.

David Hinojosa of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, who represented the plaintiffs in the case, said Justice's original order gave the state more than a year to develop a new plan.

Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Florence Shapiro, R-Plano , said her panel is exploring legislation to improve instruction and dropout prevention programs for limited-English students.

"While our elementary-school students are doing very well, we recognize there are problems in our high schools that we want to address," Shapiro said in a story in The Dallas Morning News.

Issues related to limited English students include low test scores and high dropout rates.

The House's education leader, Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands, said he will again offer legislation to provide state funding for dual-language immersion programs that would replace traditional bilingual and ESL classes. Under a dual-language program, students learn some subjects in their native languages for half a day and other subjects in English for the other half.

In bilingual education classes, students are taught core subjects in their native languages while they are learning English.

In ESL, students get intensive instruction in English while taking core courses that typically allow limited use of their native languages.

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