California public schools serving poor children have better facilities, more textbooks and more appropriately qualified teachers than they did seven years ago, according to a study released this week by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The study highlights "significant progress" made since the 2004 settlement of Williams v. California, the lawsuit the ACLU and others brought on behalf of children lacking access to basic resources for learning. The report by the ACLU of Southern California concludes: "The evidence is clear: Williams is working."

Locally, conditions have improved dramatically in schools serving underprivileged youth. While all schools must comply with the Williams settlement, only schools that score in the bottom 30 percent on state tests -- which generally correspond with schools in pockets of poverty -- are monitored by their county offices of education. In Santa Clara County, that represents about 12 percent of the total enrollment in public schools.

Two years ago -- the most recent data examined -- in the county's monitored schools, 1 percent of those classrooms lacked appropriate textbooks, compared with 10 percent in 2005.

In the same year, 10 percent had deficiencies in facilities, down from 48 percent in 2005. Monitors check heating systems, windows, pest infestation, restrooms, hazardous materials and several other areas.

They found 15 teachers had been misassigned, lacking the credentials to teach their subject area or their particular students, such as English learners. All but one violation was corrected within 30 days. There were 12 classes missing permanent teachers -- seven in Alum Rock, four in East Side Union and one in the Mount Pleasant elementary school district -- and assigned substitutes instead.

In San Mateo County, two years ago 2 percent of classrooms in 26 monitored schools had insufficient textbooks and instructional materials -- and for the first time since monitoring began, the Ravenswood City School District in East Palo Alto had no deficiencies in materials. One school in the Bayshore Elementary District was marked down for an unusable water fountain, and less than 4 percent of teachers at the low-performing schools were misassigned.

"Districts have gotten clear about what every child should have," said Mefula Fairley of the San Mateo County Office of Education, "and gotten better at ensuring those materials are in place from the first day of school."

In all cases in both counties, school districts corrected the deficiencies once they were pointed out.

The Williams suit "has had real payoffs," said Don Bolce, who oversees compliance by 51 schools in 12 school districts.

"These are areas districts wanted to address," said Bolce, of the Santa Clara County Office of Education. "The Williams settlement just called attention to them."

The East Side Union High School District, which has four schools being monitored, has remodeled classrooms and purchased textbooks specifically to comply with the Williams case, Superintendent Chris Funk said.

Statewide, the ACLU found similar progress. In 2005-06, 29 percent of teachers in California's low-performing schools had been misassigned. Five years later, that figure dropped to 13 percent.

Campuses are cleaner, safer and more functional. The percentage of schools with conditions that pose a threat to health or safety dropped by two-thirds, to 4 percent. Similarly, 5 percent of schools lacked textbooks and instructional materials, compared with 19 percent in 2004-05, the ACLU reported.

The Williams settlement also created a way to register complaints about districts' facilities, materials or teacher qualification.

Despite the progress, the report warned of an "impending crisis." During successive years of budget cuts, schools reduced maintenance and staff, and are accumulating a backlog of unattended repairs. As a result, the report noted, county offices of education see a looming crisis.

Contact Sharon Noguchi at 408-271-3775. Follow her at Twitter.com/NoguchiOnK12.