Nine California school districts lost a bid to a state appeals court today to have limited-English-speaking children tested in their native languages or with other accommodations when they are assessed under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

A three-judge panel of the Court of Appeal in San Francisco upheld a decision by the state Board of Education to conduct the testing in English.

The court said the federal law gives each state the flexibility to “make its own judgment call in fashioning a testing program” and that courts should not second-guess the state board.

Mary Hernandez, a San Jose lawyer representing the school districts, said no decision had been made on whether to appeal further to the California Supreme Court.

Nearly 1.6 million of the state’s 6 million public school children are limited-English speakers, or English learners. Spanish is the primary language for about 85 percent of the English learners, followed by four Asian languages.

The No Child Left Behind Act, signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2002, requires public school districts to conduct yearly standardized testing of children as a condition of receiving federal funds.

The nine school districts, led by the Coachella Valley Unified School District of Riverside County, sued the state board in San Francisco Superior Court in 2005. They claimed the English testing violated the law and punished schools with English learners.

The districts appealed after a trial judge rejected the lawsuit in 2007.

Northern California districts participating in the lawsuit included the Pajaro Valley Unified School District in Santa Cruz County and the Alisal Union elementary and Salinas Union high school districts in Monterey County.

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