Advocacy law firm, Public Counsel, filed a lawsuit against the state of California Tuesday for not doing enough for the many children who can’t read.
According to recent English assessments, less than half of California students met the state’s literacy standards for their grade. The lawsuit cites that 11 of the 26 lowest performing districts in the United States are in California.
“When it comes to literacy and the delivery of basic education, California is dragging down the nation,” said Public Counsel lawyer Mark Rosenbaum, who sued along with the law firm Morrison & Foerster.
The law suit in particular accused state education officials of ignoring a 2012 report by experts they brought in to evaluate literacy in the schools.
The report said that California schools need to address the language and literacy development of California’s underserved populations and create new approaches to reading instruction, early screening and remedial help.
Unfortunately, these recommendations weren’t executed and California students still suffer from illiteracy.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit include former and current teachers and students at Van Buren Elementary School and La Salle Elementary School in Stockton and Children of Promise Preparatory Academy in Inglewood.
The lawsuit claims students in one charter school class had to listen to an audio version of a social studies lesson because they couldn’t read the lesson themselves. Some of the students even burst out crying when they were asked to read out loud in class.
Eleven-year-old Katie T., a plaintiff in the case, only read at a third grade level when she finished the fifth grade at La Salle Elementary School. The lawsuit claims no one helped Katie with her reading.
David Moch, another plaintiff in the case, said that teachers weren’t properly trained on how to help students with poor reading skills. He taught at La Salle Elementary School for 18 years and said that he sometimes used kindergarten reading tools to help third and fifth graders improve their reading skills.
Moch added the United States needs citizens who can read and vote. “Once you get behind, if there’s no intervention, there’s no catching up. The level of the work is getting more intense and multiplied at every level.”
The lawsuit asks for better teacher training and more resources for teachers. It also calls for the state to help schools implement proven methods of literacy instruction once students are found to have difficulty reading.
The state currently doesn’t have a plan to evaluate every school’s literacy instruction. Rosenbaum said that the state doesn’t have an accountability system to assure literacy is being delivered.
Rosenbaum added that when the state has a system of literacy instruction in place, it won’t be necessary to have kids repeat grades, suspensions and expulsions will go down and there will be a lower teacher turnover.
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