California Sued by Students & Parents for Failing to Teach Literacy

School educationA group of parents and students has filed what it hopes will be a landmark lawsuit against the State of California for its public schools failing to teach literacy.

Public Counsel and the prestigious Law Firm of Morrison & Foerster sued the State of California, the State Board of Education, the State Department of Education, and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson for their collective failure to provide every child in the state access to literacy as required under the California Constitution.

The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court on behalf of parents of students at two Los Angeles schools and one Stockton school, alleges that it is an urgent civil rights crisis that California has the three worst-performing schools and 11 of the 26 worst-performing public school districts in the nation for the ability of students to read and write.

Based on California’s testing standards, the suit states that “under-performing schools throughout California have student bodies consistently achieving less than 10 percent, and frequently less than 5 percent, proficiency in core subjects like reading and math.” To put the crisis in perspective, only 8 children out of the 179 students tested at Los Angeles’ La Salle Elementary were found to be proficient by state standards.

A Los Angeles Unified School District report from an attendance task force found that 800,000 students, or about one out of every seven enrolled students, was “chronically absent” for at least 15 days per year and at risk of dropping out.

Lead attorney Mark Rosenbaum stated that California has 13 percent of the worst-performing U.S. school districts. He added: “Public education was intended as the ‘great equalizer’ in our democracy, enabling all children opportunity to pursue their dreams and better their circumstances. But in California it has become the ‘great unequalizer.”

Rosenbaum referred to the state’s own literacy experts’ report, which concluded in 2012 that “there is an urgent need to address the language and literacy development of California’s underserved populations…”. Despite continuing concerns over the last five years, Rosenbaum argued that the state took no meaningful corrective actions.

During the five-year period following the grim literacy report, per-student spending on California K-12 educational programs did jump by 66 percent, from $9,370 per student in 2012-2013 to $15,521 per student for the 2017-18 school year.

But that concerted effort to improve student literacy was torpedoed in late 2015 by President Barack Obama’s signing of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), requiring school evaluations to include at least one “non-academic factor.” ESSA replaced the No Child Left Behind Act, which relied almost exclusively on regular student testing for grade-level reading and math skills.

Unable or unwilling to improve literacy test scores, the California Board of Education in September of last year voted unanimously to undermine the testing by incorporating other non-academic factors in rating schools that include graduation rates, college preparedness, and rates at which non-native speakers are learning English.

Under the new educational evaluation system adopted by the Board of Education, each California school will not receive an overall literacy rating, but rather receive year-to-year comparative results for how it performs across categories of different student groups.

The Los Angeles Times called the vote the end of a long philosophical shift away from judging schools using only their test scores, “as more people agree that numbers alone can never capture the complexity of classrooms.”

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  1. retiredxlr8r says

    A couple things; failure to teach U.S. history and Civics and more importantly, why wasn’t the teachers union included in this suit? They are a major problem with the education systems and programs in California, they work for the teacher and not the student and they do that work on my dime. They are funded by taxpayers through teachers salaries and that money they steal they buy politicians to get what they want from the taxpayers. And now, they will start purchasing judges, but, hey, they are cheap just like politicians in California!

  2. And the elephant in the room is the huge number of latino students legal or otherwise. Education is NOT a big priority South of the border, so it is not a big priority North of the border, especially in the poorer sections of Mexico.
    And YES to including the Teachers Union.

  3. LibertyBelle says

    Has the state ever been held legally accountable for its numerous failings? If so, in addition to incompetent schools, there should be hundreds of other lawsuits ranging from traffic accidents due to poor road and repair management, all manner of crimes committed against California residents by illegal aliens, mismanagement or lack of water storage affecting farm businesses, etc, etc, etc…

  4. The California Democrats like an illiterate voter population

  5. California resident and I just do not see how this could possible happen with all the HIGH taxes we have to pay to the School system? The answer is the Liberal democrates could care less as long as they have those great benefits Grey Davis gave them. The money is not going to schools it is going to Illegal and politicians..

  6. kris Slaght says

    what do people expect when lying idiotic liberals push that phony no child left behind garbage, and special considerations are given to the illegal mexicans ‘so they feel more comfortable’ bullshit. Wake up/ they should be suing that low life brown, newsome, feinstein, boxer.

  7. True Teacher says

    I read this in a comment box years ago. I did not write it, but it is very accurate.

    “Teachers do not say much because they do not want to admit that teachers can teach effectively only when they are given students who show up ready to learn – and that teachers cannot make children ready to learn. Furthermore, they do not want to be seen as “blaming” the children.

    Republicans do not say much that is rational because they resent the teacher union’s steadfast and very effective support of Democrat candidates and they will say anything they think will weaken the teachers politically.

    Democrats do not say much that is rational because their politically correct belief system will not tolerate any suggestion that inadequate families disproportionately generate un-raised children who become unsuccessful students – even when they know it is true.

    Teacher training faculty do not say much because they fear that if people begin to examine things closely they will discover that most of what goes into making a good teacher happens before kindergarten rather than after high school graduation.”

    This is why these types of lawsuits don’t make it very far.

  8. Can you believe this? What a bunch of bigots. Do they not know that “social justice” and “political correctness” are the most important things to learn?

  9. Good luck with that.
    In a totalitarian system you find out who is really running things when you discover who you may not criticize – and you may not criticize teachers, nor sue them.

  10. But keep the porch light on by declaring Cali a “sanctuary state”…
    Anziani & Michael said what I otherwise wanted to say

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