Thursday, November 18, 2010

Size Matters.

Ladies, am I right??

Okay, you dirty birds, Mrs. Mimi is talking about CLASS size not...well...sizes of other things.  Ahem.  Yes, class size.  We'll just go with that, shall we?

So word on the street is that Secretary I've-Never-Taught-Before-And-Therefore-Don't-Know-My-Class-Size-From-My-Elbow Duncan is suggesting that schools make some "hard choices" in these "difficult economic times."  I guess he's just realizing that tax dollars don't grow on trees and OF COURSE when you need to cut back on something, education is the first place you should look.  I mean, duh! It's only our future generation, right?

Basically, The Dunks thinks that rather than cut art and music or other things that "directly impact the classroom," schools should opt to make "targeted increases" in class size.  (You guys, he even said that he would be willing to send his hypothetical children to a class of 26 children if there was an excellent teacher in place...I mean, if that's not an endorsement...)  A few problems with his line of thinking:

(My soapbox, please!)

1.  Um, Mr. Duncan?  Mr. Secretary of EDUCATION?  When was the last time you were actually IN a classroom?  Because, guess what?  No, go ahead.  Guess.  No ideas?  Well, my friend, it's just that many schools ALREADY have class sizes of 25 and 26.  Are you imagining the jump to 30 students as being no big deal?  That means a teacher gets to spend less than 15 minutes with each child.

2.  What makes Duncan think that increasing class size is a decision that has no direct impact on the classroom?  I can't think of many other things that have a BIGGER impact on the classroom.  Um, logic much?

3.  Oh, and I guess being a Power That Be means possessing the magical ability to ignore massive amounts of data supporting small class size.  Are book burnings back in style?  Is data burning all the rage?

The Dunks also goes on to say that school districts should rethink pay scales that give teachers additional pay for advanced degrees.  Instead, he suggests that the most effective teachers should be paid between $80,000 and $125,000 a year.  Now.  Not that I don't agree that the Rock Stars of Education should be paid some serious Benjamins, HOWEVER, where is this imaginary money going to come from if we have to make "tough decisions" such as increasing class size because we are in tough economic times. Again, my friend, you are not making the sense.  But I guess when you are in charge, you don't have to.

Note: Due to lack of sleep and the reality that I can't put enormous amounts of bullsh*t out into the universe and just expect people to swallow it like some people I know, my fingers are crossed that this post is coherent.

12 comments:

futureflstar said...

When the class size issue was back on our state ballot a few weeks ago we all held our breath. Thankfully we get to keep our smaller class sizes, for now. k-3 is maxed at 18 per teacher. If I had more than that in my room right now I'd have to get rid of all the furniture and teach on the floor all day long. I don't have space for my 17 kids now....I cannot imagine what would happen if there were any more!

sharper said...

I teach fourth grade science and social studies. There are 33 students in each section. Anytime Sec. Duncan wants to take over- I am willing to let go of the reins

Stu said...

Oh, it's coherent all right...spot on.

Duncan is a sociology major...and professional athlete and, above all, a political appointee. His Renaissance crap in Chicago worked about as well as the Houston Miracle did for Rod Paige...meaning, it didn't.

He never taught in...never even attended a public school in his life. He, like so many others (can you say "New Chancellor in NYC") has no clue what being a professional educator means.

Oh, wait...they went to school, didn't they...so that makes them experts.

I know...let's allow the people who brought us the Great Recession to tell us how to run the schools...that'll work!

These people don't know what they're doing. And we just added a whole s***tload more "don't-know-what-they're-doings" to the congress of the US and state legislators.

It's just so frustrating!

Kim said...

Now that we fought back the attempt to increase class size (yes, I'm in FL, too, but in high school), my district has its proposals for how to meet the class size requirements: Teachers should give up one planning period to pick up another section. Oh, they'd LOOOOOOVE to compensate us for that extra 250 minutes in class per week, because it's cheaper than hiring another teacher with salary and benefits. In my department of 15 teachers, 6 are already teaching a 6th section. Problem is, I don't WANT to teach a 6th section. I want my planning period so I can, you know, PLAN (and maybe get some grading done). So, less time to plan and an additional 25 students' worth of grading to do? No thanks. How about just do the right thing and find the money to hire the teachers? Logic, they no haz it.

Helen's Book Blog said...

We are up to a 35 per class max at my school (read: most classes are at 35). We are a high school, but still. When I left the classroom 2 years ago we were all at about 28 to 30...HUGE difference!

I'd love to earn $80 to $125,000! If we could afford to pay teachers that instead of the $780 extra per year that I get for my Master's Degree I'd be SO happy I'd do a jig. But if we can't afford an advanced degree stipend, where are we getting the funds for these awesome salaries? Ugh. and. Duh.

mclaugkm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Teacher Stuff said...

Our district raised class size to 24 this year in K-3 since the state reduced penalities for having more than 20 kids in a class. We are lucky in 1st grade that the former idiot principal can't add and kept 5 teachers istead of 4. We are all at 20 - 21. I'm afraid of what will happen next year. Our state, CA, is still in the crapper financially, yet money was magically found to buyback our furlough days. So for the last 6 months of school I will get most of my pay back. But if we are still financially in the gutter, I can only imagine that this is the year that massive layoffs will happen and we will all be back to 30 kids. I am scared to death of 30 low first graders, no help and no materials. Such a joy! I know some schools in the OC (and you thought they were well off!) are at 30 kids per class already. I bet the parents love that!

Lisa said...

I think class size has a huge negative impact, and I've been looking for the supporting research that I know must be out there. You mention research as well. What specifically are you referring to? I've had a lot of trouble finding it...

mtompkins said...

Here in California, most school districts did away with 20:1 in k - 3. I teach 2nd grade and we started the year with 32 kids, 12 more kids than last year! It is impossible to fit that many students in a classroom built for 20. I have had to take out a lot of furniture to make room for us to squeeze in. The past 3 months of school haven't been about teaching but crowd control. You definitely don't have a strong connection with the students like you did in the past.

Mr. Peepers said...

It never ceases to amaze me how people who have no idea what they are talking about, or have never been in a classroom since grade school, do not understand how class size effects teaching. Not only does having too many students contribute to discipline problems, or make them harder to deal with when they occur, but it also means less time per student and a direct impact on the educational value the students are getting. Never mind the fact that many schools in the US are old and often small, and trying to cram 30 students into a classroom built for less than 20 does not contribute to a better education! Where is the teacher supposed to go? Out into the hallway??

Ashley O'Connor said...

Yes, I do believe you have a valid point. I think that there are so many sacrifices and none of them are helpful to what really matters, the student's education! As an upcoming teacher, I was just completing a practicum where the class sizes were at 28! It was crazy. The reason I was given by the host teacher was that there were recent budget cuts. To further blow my mind, the students were on their way to dance class. I thought, that’s unusual, dance class? Not to discredit dance, but it seems to me if the students are getting a P.E. class and a music class, then essentially, they are/can get the benefits of dance class. It really blew my mind that the school found it in the budget to offer a dance class, but the general classrooms were up to 18 because of budget cuts! It left me wondering where else money was being wasted…

Linda said...

I linked to this post at:

http://teacherlingo.com/blogs/dragonlady328pt/archive/2011/01/11/does-size-matter.aspx

Who's Peeking?