Williams v California – A Step Towards Equity

Description of Williams Court Ruling and Settlement

                The plaintiff in Williams v. California was Eliezer Williams, a dissatisfied middle school student from San Francisco.  Significantly, the case was heard on May 17, 2000, the 46th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education.  Williams and her father, along with Public Advocates, American Civil Liberties Union, Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and Morrison & Foerster LLP, Williams sought to equalize educational opportunities for all public school students in California (Rodriguez and Jongco, 2007).

Williams v. California built on the precedent set by Serrano v. Priest, (1970) which established education as a fundamental right in California.   The Williams suit used Serrano’s equal protection ruling to argue that public school students must be guaranteed a minimum level of educational necessities.  The Williams case argued that the state of California denied thousands of students their fundamental right to an education under the constitution by failing to provide them with basic resources (Chung, 2013).  After four years of litigation, on August 13, 2004, the Williams Settlement led to standards for the minimum level of educational necessities, created an accountability system and committed one billion in funding to implement the program (Rodriguez and Jongco, 2007).  The Williams Settlement defined “educational necessities” to mean adequate textbooks and instructional materials, clean, safe, and functional school facilities, and qualified teachers.

Textbooks and Instructional Materials

The legal definition of adequate instructional materials under the Williams Settlement is “each pupil, including English Learners, has a standards-aligned textbook or instructional materials, or both, to use in class and to take home” (Chung, 2013, p.15).   Since 2004, various amendments to the education code, along with senate and assembly bills, have addressed current educational needs and economic realities without losing the essence of the Williams Settlement.  For example, in 2009, the Education Code 60119(c)(1) was amended to specify that all students in the same grade or course within a school district receive instructional materials from the same adoption.  Senate Bill 509 in 2011 allowed local education agencies (LEA) to purchase instructional materials for their neediest schools without purchasing materials for their higher performing schools.  Assembly Bill 1246 in 2012 defined “standards-alignment” to mean either the state standards or the California Common Core Standards (Chung, 2013).  Because of the Williams Settlement, textbook insufficiencies are known and reported, and funding was provided to help schools buy new books.

School Facilities

                For school facilities, the Williams Settlement created standards for what constitutes “good repair” and “emergency facility needs,” and established an accountability system.  Each school utilizes a standard tool to assess the quality of their facility.  Schools now use the Facilities Inspection Tool (FIT) which replaced the Interim Evaluation Instrument (IEI) in 2007 (Chung, 2013).   If a school has any condition that prevents it from being safe, clean and functional, it must be documented on the FIT.  Low-performing schools were also eligible for emergency repair funds.

Qualified Teachers

                The Williams Settlement created clear standards for “teacher misassignments” and “teacher vacancies.”  A teacher misassignment is when a teacher lacks the subject matter, English Learner (EL) or other authorization required for the assignment.  A vacancy is when a class has no single, designated full-time teacher, and is taught by a series of substitutes (Chung, 2013).

Accountability System and Funding

The Williams Settlement established an accountability system where districts perform an annual self-evaluation regarding instructional materials, school facilities, and qualified teachers.  Schools are required to publish an annual School Accountability Report Card (SARC) and make it available to parents and the public.  The SARC includes data on textbook sufficiency, FIT results, and teacher qualifications.  The Williams Settlement also created a Uniform Complaint Process (UCP) for parents, students, teachers. UCP complaints must be reviewed quarterly by the local and county board of education.  Also, schools ranked in the lowest three deciles on the Academic Performance Index (API) receive annual visits by the county department of education and additional funding from the state for emergency repairs and instructional materials (Chung, 2013).

Relevance of the Williams Settlement on Education

                The Williams Settlement has significantly improved students’ access to the necessities of education.   Data collected on the three Williams components show unequivocal progress.  There have been dramatic decreases in textbook insufficiencies since the settlement.   In 2004, 19% of decile 1-3 schools had textbook deficiencies and by 2013, that percentage had decreased to 4.5%.  Likewise, there have been decreases in emergency facility needs.  In 2004, 13% of decile 1-3 schools had emergency facilities needs and by 2013, that number decreased to 4%.  Finally, regarding teacher quality, the percentage of teacher misassignments in decile 1-3 schools decreased from 29% in 2005 to 13% in 2011, and the number of teacher vacancies decreased from 547 in 2007 to 235 in 2011.  Teacher misassignments, specifically due to lack of English Learner Authorization, decreased from 29% in 2004 to 1.2% in 2011 (Chung, 2013). Due to the accountability measures of the Willaims Settlement, districts now require EL authorization as a requirement of employment.  Clearly, providing an adequate education for all students has substantially improved since the William Settlement.

While providing an adequate education for all students has improved with the Williams Settlement, it remains a work in progress.   The state is now $462 million behind in the minimum funding outlined in Williams for the Emergency Repair Program (ERP) and as of 2010, the state stopped accepting applications for ERP funding.  (Chung, 2013, p. 31). The number of unfunded ERP projects in 2013 total 4,759.  (Chung, 2013, p. 32).   Also, teacher misassignments, while decreasing, are still greater in decile 1-3 schools than higher-performing schools.

Moving from Adequacy to Equity

                As California moves ahead with new educational initiatives, such as common core standards, issues of adequacy will need to be continuously addressed.   With the implementation of common core state standards, new materials will need to be purchased and distributed in alignment with the Williams settlement.  The definition of instructional materials has evolved with the greater use of digital materials, and districts will need to grapple with providing equal access at school and home to devices and Internet connectivity, rather than textbooks.   To provide equal access to devices, districts have created a variety of solutions such as Bring Your Own Device, Rent-to-Purchase and One-to-One programs.   To provide equal access to content, districts sometimes use digital materials not requiring Internet connectivity or provide universal Internet access, such as the Riverside Unified School District (“Digital Instructional Materials,” 2014).  Regardless of the solution, the standard set by Williams is that districts must ensure that all students can access the electronic device and content both at home and school without requiring students to purchase to provide the device or Internet service (“Digital Instructional Materials,” 2014).

LCFF, enacted in 2013, replaces the old state finance system with a more equitable system that provides more funds to districts with high need students, such as English Language Learners, foster youth, homeless and low-income students. Whereas the Williams Settlement focuses on ensuring a minimum level of adequate education for all students, LCFF addresses equity. Students with more needs receive more funds.  Still, the influence of the Williams Settlement is apparent in the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) that requires eight state priorities, the first of which is the delivery of basic educational necessities for equal educational opportunities (Chung, 2013).

During the past 12 years, the Williams settlement and has shown that what gets monitored gets addressed.  Because of Williams v California, students’ access to adequate instructional materials, safe facilities and qualified teachers has substantially improved.  The accountability systems put into place by the Williams Settlement have created a culture of collaboration and urgency to ensure all students have the necessities of public education.  The next step for California is to use LCFF to move from adequacy to equity for all students.



Brimley,V., Verstegen,D. and Garfield,R. (2012). Financing education in a climate of change. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson.

Chung, S. (2013, September 29). Williams v. California:  Lessons from nine years of implementation.  Retrieved from the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California website: https://www.aclusocal.org/cases/williams-v-california/nineyears/

Digital Instructional Materials and the Williams Sufficiency Standard (2014, April 11). Retrieved from the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California website:  https://www.aclusocal.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Digital-Materials-Sufficiency-Issue-Brief.pdf

Rodriguez, M. & Jongco, A. (2007, Fall).  Williams v. California: Hope and Confidence for Students and Parents.   Educating for Equity, vol. 14, No.2.  Retrieved from: http://reimaginerpe.org/node/1173


EDD 703 Reflection

Based on CUI “urban legend” I expected this class to be very difficult and time consuming.   It was, but also life-changing.   I am a different learner than I was two months ago.  As I reflect on the most important elements of this class that helped me grow professionally and as a student, I’ve narrowed it down to three.

First, developing a Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) system for searching, curating and sharing online information has given me the tools and confidence to use online information for both research and job-related needs.  Due to my PKM system, I am better connected with colleagues both in and out of my district, and have found new information and inspirational ideas to use and share professionally.

Second, the Zotero tool changed the way I write research papers.  I search  more online and I organize and store my files digitally.  While Zotero makes in-text and bibliography citations simpler, I find that entering sources into Zotero had made me more aware of APA details.

Finally, learning to utilize Infographics to share data in powerful ways will help me affect change in my district.  I hope to never again put tiny numbers in a chart and expect the data to speak for itself.  Coupling my analysis with graphically engaging displays is a strategic tool for change.

I leave this class with so many tools under my belt and a desire to keep learning more!


Transforming Education Podcast Series

I really enjoyed listening to Episode 16 – The Future of Education with Melissa Pelochino, d.school fellow.  Melissa talked about her role as a Project Fellow at Stanford’s Design School and shared her thoughts about  education’s transformation.

Melissa’s leadership advice is to 1) listen like a foreigner, 2) challenge assumptions, and 3) act before you’re ready.

Melissa believes that transforming education is about choice and personalizing, not about changing everything.  She envisions a future classroom where there are no walls, students are the primary “knowers” and teachers are invisible (present, but not the focal point.)

Melissa thinks that instead of full day workshops, professional development in the future will be smaller chunks of “micro” content, continuously shared over time.

I’ll be following and sharing her tweets with you all.


Integrating VAPA


Marina Abramović, The Artist Is Present, 2010

I lead the Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA) Committee in LHCSD and am always looking for inspirational articles to share.  This week I focused my search on the arts and was pleased to find several motivational articles about integrating VAPA in the classroom.

When integrating arts with the common core, Yarnes (2015) suggests six steps.  1)  Find a theme or focus  2)  Find the art 3)  Close read the art 4)  Create an art project 5)  Write and discus  6)  Reflect.  For example, perhaps the theme from your literature is taking a stand.  Use the search feature at the Getty Art Museum to find art with that theme.  Select a piece of art to close read with your students. Decide on an art project using whatever materials are easily available, such as crayons, pencils or construction.  After the students have created their art, write about it.  Finally, reflect on the lesson to make it even better next time.

When selecting art, Goodman (2015) reminds us to find current artists to inspire students.  We need to remind students that art is a form of communication beyond the walls of a museum.  For example, El Anatsui is a Ghanian sculptor who uses everyday “trash” to create works that remind us that materials have inherent beauty and to be mindful of human consumption and ecology.  Ai Weiwei, a Chinese sculptor, designed the Nest for the Beijing Olympics and has since been imprisoned for his art that criticizes the anti-democratic nature of the Chinese government.  JR is a French street artist and photographer who uses grand scale projects in public places to bring attention to the disenfranchised.  To see a sample of their work, click below.   Through these examples, students may come to see art as more than an expression of beauty and awaken their artistic voice.

Current Artists

Lenz (2015) highlights an example of VAPA integration in San Rafael, CA through an initiative called  Classroom Connections.  In this school-wide effort, classroom teachers and VAPA specialists collaborate to explore shared concepts and parallel processes.  The classroom teachers share the essential topics to be understood and the VAPA specialists share  studio habits of mind to help deepen understanding.  Together they create units that give students opportunities to share their understanding artistically.

I hope you find these short articles useful in thinking about VAPA integration at your school!

Goodman, S. (2015, November 10). 8 Living Artists Every Educator Should   Know. Retrieved November 22, 2015, from http://www.edutopia.org /blog/8-living-artists-every-educator-should-know-stacey-goodman

Lenz, B. (2015, July 10). Classroom Connections: Arts Integration Up Close. Retrieved November 22, 2015, from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/classroom-connections-arts-integration-up-close-bob-lenz

Yarnes, L. (2015, October 13). 6 Steps Toward Arts Integration. Retrieved November 22, 2015, from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/6-steps-toward-arts-integration-lorenza-yarnes

The Next Generation Digital Learning Environment

NGDLENext Generation Digital Learning Environment, or NGDLE, will have interoperability, personalization, analytics, advising, learning assessment, collaboration and accessibility and universal design.   Still in development, the NGDLE concept is a one-stop-shop using a “Lego” approach.   A variety of elements will be able to snap together on a in response to higher education’s frustration with Learning Management Systems (LMS).  Sometimes referred to as “walled-gardens,”  LMS focus on the administration of learning, rather than the learning itself.  In contrast, NGDLE is a dynamic, interconnected environment of learners, instructors, tools and content.  Users will be able to personalize their learning environment to make it work for their needs.  NGDLE recognize that learners are both receivers and creators of content.

If your district is looking to upgrade their Student Information Systems (SIS) and LMS, remember NGDLE and envision the possibilities!  See one in action.

Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/search/apachesoir_search/Digital Learning Environment

Closing the Gap

How do districts bridge the divide between the huge amount of data on student performance and the teachers who actively use that data to make instructional decisions?  That is the question addressed in Closing the Gap.  Most teachers face the daunting task of going to multiple data sources, their grade book, the student information system, the cumulative file, special education file, response to intervention file, discipline and health files, and possibly the learning management system, to find information on their students.  Nicole Catapano, a predictive analyst and solutions architect for IBM, sums up the challenge this way:  “Time is precious, resources are few.  So how do you maximize the time and get the most efficient information in the hands of the teachers so they can do something with it as soon as possible?”  (Schaffauser, 2012, p. 6)   Districts that have been successful in getting teachers to use their data systems involve them in the process early on and provide ongoing professional development.  Also, the data housed in the data system needs to be more than standardized test scores.  Data systems need to have user-friendly means to include and analyze formative data that is closely tied to instruction.  Fairfax County Public Schools in Virgina is a story about a successful cultural shift to using data to inform instruction.  Their FCPS 24-7 initiative includes an eCART (Electronic Curriculum Assessment Resource Tool) that provides an integrated system with a single sign on for online curriculum, resources and formative assessment tools.  Not surprisingly, the eCART rolled out as an instructional, rather than a technology initiative.

Schaffhauser, D. (2012). Closing the gap. T.H.E. Journal, 39(9), 10–16.

FCPS 24-7 Video – http://www.turningdataintoaction.org/

Story, Imagery, and the Art of 21st Century Presentations

Cherry BlossomsI really enjoyed watching this video as it brought back many memories.  When I was a high school student, I saw a poster in the counselor’s office of a cherry blossom tree.  The poster advertised the Tachikawa Sister City Exchange Program and the cherry tree alone made me want to go.  I was one of four students selected to become a “student ambassador” to Japan and I still remember the beauty of their gardens, buildings, tea ceremonies, food presentation, writing.  I think it was the functional beauty that struck me most.  Everyday objects or experiences explicitly designed to be both functional and beautiful.   Later in life I learned the art of rolling sushi from a Japanese-American friend.  What I thought was “good enough,” she threw away as it did not meet her standards of beauty.    I love how Garr Reynolds reminded his Japanese audience of the need to create beautiful presentations, not just for aesthetics, but for our brains.  I’ve been inspired to do the same.