North Carolina Test Case Settled

K-12 Testing

A settlement has been reached in a class action suit brought by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund challenging the Johnston County North Carolina school district's use of state end-of-year tests for student promotion evaluations (see Examiner, Fall 1997). Plaintiffs charged that the test, intended to measure district performance, was not validated to determine individual student performance, and that use of the test would result in disproportionate retention of minorities.


District officials called the settlement a victory because it allows the district to continue its use of test scores in promotion decisions. US District Court Judge Terrence W. Boyle said the parents failed to show that the policy was discriminatory.


However, the district did make significant changes in the policy during the course of the lawsuit and in the settlement. Shortly after the case was filed, the district established an individual student review system, under which anyone who fails the test but receives a grade of "C" or better in class is entitled to seek a retention waiver. This modification resulted in a substantial reduction in the number of children retained in 1997. Other provisions contained in the settlement, such as individual reme-diation plans and parent notification requirements, are likely to further reduce the number of students retained in grade.


While the court's failure to rule against using the test for grade promotion may encourage other districts to implement similar practices, the changes in policy resulting from the case may also encourage legal challenges to such actions.