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Fisher v. Tucson Unified School District

United States District Court, D. Arizona

October 28, 2019

Roy and Josie Fisher, et al., Plaintiffs
v.
Tucson Unified School District, et al., Defendants, and United States of America, Plaintiff-Intervenor, and Sidney L. Sutton, et al., Defendants-Intervenors, Maria Mendoza, et al., Plaintiffs, and United States of America, Plaintiff-Intervenor,
v.
Tucson Unified School District, et al. Defendants.

          ORDER

          DAVID C. BURY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         2019-20 910G Budget: Reading Recovery and 910G Budget Ratios

         On September 10, 2019, the Court approved the 910G Budget for SY 2019-20, with an integration-contingency set aside of $1, 000, 000.00. The Court also ordered the District to provide additional information regarding various objections, [1] with Plaintiffs subsequently being afforded an opportunity to reurge objections. Pursuant to the recommendation of the Special Master, the Court ordered the District to file a Transition Plan status report, with the Special Master to subsequently make any relevant recommendations, including budget recommendations for the $1, 000, 000.00 set aside. As to any Objection, the District was afforded an opportunity to Reply and, thereafter, the Special Master's Report and Recommendation was due.

         On September 24, 2019, the District filed the HR Procedures for Recruiting Black Professional Staff (Doc. 2289-1); Reading Recovery/Reading Support Status Report (Doc. 2289-2), and Transition Plan Status Report (Doc. 2289-3). Objection was renewed to Reading Recovery. The deadline for the Special Master to file his Report and Recommendation regarding the District's Transition Plan Status Report (R&R) is being extended, and, therefore, is not addressed here.

         On September 30, 2019, the District filed the Magnet School MSP Comparison Report (Doc. 2297-1) and 910G Funding Ratios (Doc. 2297-2). The Mendoza Plaintiffs object generally to 910G/M&O ratios proposed by the District, whereas previously their objection was aimed more specifically at 910G funding apportioned in the 2019-20 budget, such as 100% funding for EBAS. Any objection to the Magnet MSP and actual budget comparisons is not due yet, and, therefore, is not addressed here.

         1. Reading Recovery

         The Mendoza Plaintiffs object to the Reading Recovery/Reading Support Status Report. The Mendoza Plaintiffs challenge the inadequacy of the District's reading support program because it fails to meet assessed need: the District's assessment of its incoming first graders reflects that 209 (32.5%) of African American students and 728 (35%) of Latino students, or a total of 796 students, are in “need of support.”[2] Comparatively, Reading Recovery direct services will reach 16% of African American and 5.5% of Latino students needing reading support services. (Mendoza Objection (Doc. 2311) at 3 (citing Reading Recovery Status Report (Status Report) at 4)).

         The Court has reviewed the District's Reading Recovery Status Report, the Mendoza Objection, the District's Reply, and the Special Master's Report and Recommendation. The Court does not understand the distinction in the Status Report between direct services provided to individual students and indirect “individual” student services. (Status Report (Doc. 2289-2) at 7-8.) The Court assumes that the distinction between “Reading Recovery teachers” and “Reading Recovery itinerant teachers” is that the latter travel between schools rather than being stationed at a specific school.

         The Court understands that the Status Report reflects 533 students out of the 796 students, who need reading support services, will receive at least indirect services from Reading Recovery teachers. In other words, the District's Reading Recovery program reaches approximately 67% of the students who need reading support. (Status Report (Doc. 2289-2) at 6.) Of these 533 students, approximately 52 students received direct one-on-one support services in the first semester of 2019-20 and 68 students will receive direct one-on-one support second semester. Students remain in the program until attaining a specified level of improvement, so the Court assumes that there is duplication between the 68 students receiving support services second semester and the 52 students who received services first semester, with 16 students being added as a result of this Court's directive that the District add two more Reading Recovery teachers. Approximately, 413 students receive indirect services, meaning reading support is provided by the Reading Recovery teacher to small (20 students or less) groups.

         The Special Master explains that Reading Recovery is a very effective reading support program, but it is also expensive. He recommended the program to the District because it may be operated in a fashion to readily target “African American students who are struggling readers but attend integrated schools throughout the district in relatively small numbers in each school.” (R&R (Doc. 2339) at 2.) The Court assumes that the Special Master is referring to the itinerant Reading Recovery teachers, but the downside to itinerant teachers is that they do not provide small group indirect services.

         The Status Report makes it clear that the Reading Recovery program is designed as a supplemental reading support program, which is especially useful to meet the needs of African American students. “Despite this prioritization significantly more Latino students than African American students participate in Reading Recovery (four times as many).” (R&R (Doc.2339) at 2 (citing District Reply (Doc. 2333) at 2-3 (citing Status Report (Doc. 2289-2) at 7)). The question asked by the Court when it called for the Status Report remains: what about the remaining 263 (33%[3]) of the students who need reading support? How is reading support provided to these students?

         In its Reply, the District clarifies that it is “not discontinuing, reducing, or modifying Reading Recovery in a manner that requires replacing it with an alternative program.” (Reply (Doc. 2333) at 6.) On the last page of the District's Reply, mirrored in the R&R, the District explains that there are other reading support programs, including the District's common curriculum which is designed to teach reading at all of its elementary schools and K-8 schools: Benchmark Advanced/Benchmark Adelante (Tier 1 Adoption); Cengage (Tier 1 Adoption); SuccessMaker (Tier 2 and 3 Adoption), and Scholastic Bookroom-Guided Reading (Tier 2 and 3 Adoption). The Court is being asked to find that the common curriculum addresses the 33% of first-grade students who, according to the DIBLES assessment, need either Intensive or Strategic reading support but are not in a Reading Recovery program. The District attaches five pages, reflecting two supplemental reading programs.

         The SuccessMaker program is presented as a supplemental program for grades K-8, which “makes EVERY student more successful;” it is truly adaptive learning for intervention, differentiation, and personalization with every student's interaction adjusted in real time to real learning needs. It delivers tutorials, practice, challenge, and remediation and instantly adjusts pacing and sequencing, with continual assessment to report on student progress to help teachers improve student success over time. It keeps students on pace to master target skills and standards. Research reflects that SuccessMakers has a statistically significant and positive effect on student outcomes for K and First Grade in diverse student samples. (Reply Exhibit (Doc. 2333-1) at 3.)

         The District also uses Scholastic Bookroom-Guided Reading for small-group reading instruction designed to provide differentiated teaching that supports students in developing reading proficiency. The teacher uses a tightly structured framework that allows for incorporation of several research-based approaches into a coordinated whole. The guided reading lesson means reading and talking (and sometimes writing) about an interesting and engaging variety of fiction and nonfiction texts. Students are assessed so they can be grouped for efficient reading instruction by the teacher from texts that are selected from a ...


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