Education Letter to the Editor

Disputing Claim of Progress After Calif. Case Settlement

August 28, 2007 1 min read

To the Editor:

The study on which your article “Improvements Seen to California Schools as Result of Williams Case Settlement” (Aug. 13, 2007) reports, a study released by the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California and Public Advocates Inc., two of the organizations that filed the class-action suit Williams v. California, calls into serious question the optimistic view left by your reporting.

More than 600,000 students across the state, mostly in middle and high schools, are being taught by nearly 29,000 teachers who are not certified in the subjects they are assigned or lack authorization to teach certain students in their classes. In Los Angeles County alone, 70 percent of schools have misassigned teachers. More than 20,000 classrooms statewide lack teachers trained to teach English-language learners.

Even if differential pay and other incentives now under consideration are somehow successful in recruiting highly qualified teachers for the neediest schools and in retaining them for their entire careers, these teachers’ presence does not assure that they will be teaching in their areas of expertise. This is a crucial distinction that is not consistently reported by investigators. As a result, taxpayers are led to draw invalid inferences about educational quality.

In light of the overall evidence to date, it’s hard to understand how the results of the settlement of the Williams case, brought on behalf of the state’s most neglected students, can be seen as encouraging. Yes, there are more textbooks now than before the suit was filed, but that hardly warrants jubilation. It’s the least the state owes these students.

Walt Gardner

Los Angeles, Calif.

A version of this article appeared in the August 29, 2007 edition of Education Week