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Lawsuit claims California has failed to improve grade school literacy standards

[JURIST] California's Public Counsel partnered with Morrison & Foerster on Tuesday to file a lawsuit [complaint, PDF] in the Superior Court of Los Angeles claiming the state has failed to uphold its suggested standards for improving literacy rates for grade school children.

The complaint is filed on behalf of former and current students along with teachers from multiple school districts.

Five years ago, the president of the California State Board of Education [website], after identifying a crisis in literacy proficiency, published the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Plan "SRCL Plan." This report [text, PDF] suggested new educational standards in an effort to increase the state's literacy rate. The SRCL Plan acknowledged an "urgent need to address language and literacy development of California's underserved populations."

The complaint alleges that these standards have not been met in certain districts within the state, and as a result, grade-school students are not receiving the education they are guaranteed under the Equal Protection clause of the state Constitution.

California is one of the states that has continually fell below the national average in literacy rates. Since 2015, assessments show that less than half of students from third to fifth grade have met the state's literacy standard. The lawsuit attests that of the 26 lowest-performing districts across the nation, 11 are located within the state of California.

According to the complaint, the specific relief sought by the plaintiffs include implementation of programs for both literacy instruction. These include alphabetic fluency measures and reading comprehension instruction, frequent screening for literacy proficiency, timely intervention for students having difficulties with reading, and statewide accountability of State monitoring.

Michael Jacobs, partner at Morrison & Foerster, stated in a press release [text] that "It has been five years since the state identified urgent literacy issues and their remedies, but it is yet to implement a plan to address these issues."

A similar lawsuit [complaint, PDF] was filed by seven students in Detroit [JURIST report] last year claiming they received a lesser education, which affected their reading levels when compared to students in other schools within the state of Michigan. This case is still ongoing.


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