A lawsuit filed Thursday by public interest lawyers against California education officials alleges poor planning is causing students in poor and urban schools to lose weeks of instructional time, harming their education.
“These students do not have the basic building block of education students at most other California schools can take for granted, and that is meaningful learning time,” said lawyer Kathryn Eidmann of the Public Counsel Law Center.
He said schools in Los Angeles, Compton, Oakland and other districts often don't have enough teachers to go around, so they assign students to “service classes,” in which they make copies or help school staff for a period when they should be getting academic instruction.
“I hated it because I was thinking about all the other things I could have been doing,” said Briana Lamb, a 12th grader at Fremont High School in South Los Angeles and one of the 18 named plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
“I could have had an actual elective class. I could have gotten psychology - put an hour and a half to good use instead of being brain dead,” she said.
She said she was in a service class last year and again this entire school year.
Disorganized class schedules at the beginning of the school year, lawyers said, also leave students sitting around in holding classes for days or sometimes weeks, losing valuable learning time.
Other factors they said lead to lost time: High teacher turnover and absences at urban, low income schools and lockdowns and other security disruptions.
If she could change her school, Lamb said she’d get rid of the service classes, hire teachers who are empathetic with the socio-economic struggles she and other teens face, and she’d offer more academic classes.
Lamb said she also lost a lot of credits after her mother died and her grades slipped.
“I wasn’t thinking about school," she said. "I was at school but school wasn’t on my mind."
She worked hard to make up the lost classes. She’s been accepted to Cal State Northridge and will start in the fall.
“Just to meet state requirements for graduation from high school - just to attain the classes necessary for promotion to college - requires incredible strength and resilience on their part,” Eidmann said of the students.
The lawsuit demands state officials find a way to track learning time at all schools to find out how widespread the problem is.
The lawsuit’s also meant to compel school administrators to spend some of the more than $4 billion extra dollars coming to schools in the fall on the schools named in the lawsuit.