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Settlement reached in California suit on public school learning time
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — State officials will track when students are assigned to classes in which they are given chores or allowed to leave early instead of provided instruction under the terms of a settlement reached Thursday in a class action lawsuit.

The settlement provides extra reinforcements around a new law prohibiting high schools from assigning students to more than one week of classes that offer no academic instruction each semester.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said the settlement would help identify and provide extra resources for districts with significant scheduling problems.

“We believe every student should have access to high-quality courses so they can succeed in 21st century careers and college,” Torlakson said.

Under the settlement, schools and the state will be able to identify when students are placed in “content-less” classes through a new reporting mechanism to the California Department of Education’s data collection system.

The state must also provide extra help to the six schools in the Los Angeles, Oakland and Compton districts that are part of the settlement.

Plaintiffs said they believe assigning students to classes with titles like “Home” and “Service” that provide no instruction is a practice that extends far beyond the schools named in the suit.

“The presumption is that all children have equal access to education,” said Mark Rosenbaum, an attorney with Public Counsel, which filed the suit in conjunction with student plaintiffs and the ACLU Foundation of Southern California. “What we found, though, in speaking with students and teachers and counselors is real access to meaningful learning varies as a function of zip code.”

The settlement will be final once approved by a judge.

Jason Magana, a student plaintiff in the case, said he was assigned to a “Home” period class his senior year that allowed him to leave school more than an hour early.

Now enrolled at Sacramento State University, he said the gap between students who attended Thomas Jefferson Senior High School and those who took a full schedule of college preparatory courses is palpable.

“I think it’s unfair,” he said. “We come into college without the knowledge other students have.”