On class size and lazy teachers

Few things about a school seem to matter more to parents than class size.


[. . .]


But you may be surprised to learn that the effects of class size on learning are not 100 percent clear. Conventional wisdom tell us that smaller class size is crucial for learning -- that kids of all ages learn more in smaller groups. And indeed, in the early years of schooling, there is some research to back this up.

But there is a substantial body of research to suggest that kids in small classes don’t necessarily learn more. In the range of things that schools can do to improve outcomes for your child, reducing class size may rank a distant fourth behind solid teacher training, a clear and well-sequenced curriculum, and a staff that is well supported and regularly evaluated. For decades, class size was largely a function of a community’s population. A lot of kids born in a particular year? The local school found a way to cram them into classrooms. In the 1970s, though, as the discussion of the achievement gap sharpened and schools began to be seen as an instrument of racial oppression, "overcrowding" became a catch-all concept for the inequities between poor and middle-class kids in public education. Writers like liberal activist Jonathan Kozol decried the antiquated, crumbling, and overcrowded classrooms where poor children had their dreams denied. "The overcrowded classroom" was associated with poor performance, high truancy, and high rates of juvenile crime.

In the last twenty years, legislators have tried to institute state-wide standards in an effort to keep teacher-student ratios low, especially in poor and underperforming schools.


[. . .]


In general, the powerful teachers unions do endorse small class size. Although it is popular to bash the unions, you can look at their enthusiasm for small class size in a couple of different ways. It may be an honest reflection of the experience of the people who are on the front lines in education. A great number of classroom teachers point out that they can barely learn the names of thirty students by the end of the first month of school, much less pitch instruction to different learning styles so the students can learn best. Teachers also describe a sense of connectedness that can grow in a small class, creating a learning environment that is intimate, flexible, and, when it works, highly productive. A more cynical take is that the union support for small classrooms is part of an effort to protect the working conditions of its members. Smaller class size makes it easier for teachers to teach. It takes much less time to grade fifteen essays than thirty.


The most cynical take is that smaller class size also increases the number of teachers who are hired and strengthens the union that supports them. Randi Weingarten, head of the American Federation of Teachers, acknowledges that raising class size is a branch on a tree of hard decisions that cash-strapped states are facing. But, she says, "if somebody says they want to raise class size, they’re doing it because they want to cut the budget, not because it’s actually going to help children." Teachers’ union representatives point out that the same fiscal conservatives and corporate-type reformers who encourage high student-to-teacher ratios in classrooms are often the ones who send their own children to private schools where -- you guessed it -- the kids receive instruction in small groups, often twelve to fifteen in a class.


Does class size matter? For some interesting reasons, it’s hard for researchers to come up with a definitive answer.


[. . .]


To be sure, all the nay-saying and bellyaching about the way the Tennessee test was conducted didn’t slow the enthusiasm of class-size-reduction proponents. In fact, the Tennessee project changed education policy in the entire state of California. In 1996, state education officials on the West Coast got legislators to appropriate $1 billion a year to cap elementary school class sizes at a strict twenty kids to one teacher. A pricy undertaking, it led to an unprecedented hiring binge, with the state bringing 28,886 new teachers on board. Six years later, the Rand Corporation published a study examining the results of the California effort-- and it was discouraging. The good news was that, overall, California’s educational performance had gone up. The bad news was this: despite hiring all those new teachers, the kids in the small classes were performing about the same as kids in the larger classes. And those positive downstream effects -- better grades in high school and higher graduation rates -- never materialized, either.


So, what happened? No one is sure. But there are two strong hypotheses: either the Tennessee results were specific to that state and that experiment, or -- and this is one that most educational experts favor -- teacher quality matters more than class size. (Peg Tyre, “Does class size really matter,” Salon, 5 August 2011)






Class size matters slightly, but not as much as other factors

For example a small class of 15 would not do as well as a larger class of 24, assuming that the class of 15 kids ONLY ATTENDED 5 hours a day, and 180 days a year, and the class of 24 attended EIGHT hours a day, TWELVE MONTHS of the year....just like kids in Europe, Japan, China -- every place that beats our socks off.


But we can't have that, can we? Because of the immense power of the teacher's union, and the fact they want to protect their short days and VERY short school year, which means they are GUARANTEED a paid 2.5 month summer vacation each and every year, to sit in the yard and sip iced tea, and play with their kids, and go on nice vacations, while the imbeciles who PAY THEIR OUTRAGEOUS SALARIES AND LUX WAGES slog into their regular 8 hour a day jobs, all bleepin' year long.


@Follow the Money

I am sorry, but NO, you are NOT a professional. Teachers are not professionals. They do not work full time. They attend teacher's college, which is the easiest and most undemanding program anywhere (they reject NO ONE, you don't even have to speak proper English to get accepted) and they "prepare you" for a job where you work part time, can't ever be fired, and retire 15 years before anyone else at almost full pay and benefits.

That's a rip off. It is not "professionalism". Sad you do not even know the difference.


@Engineer Bill

Teachers have a right to decent working conditions; I agree. But they have FAR FAR MORE THAN THAT -- they have Socialist benefits that would stagger the most affluent European. Even EUROPE, nobody gets THREE MONTHS OF PAID VACATION. Nobody works only 4 hours and 45 minutes a day!

Teachers also mostly DO NOT have "advanced degrees". They have an education degree, which is an ordinary BA, about what you'd get if you majored in Tibetan Basket Weaving or English Lit or "Communications".


And they earn far more than "people who have advanced degrees", according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics -- more than engineers, more than nurses, more than architects, more than physicists, more than Optometrists. WHY? because those folks work all day, 12 months of the year. Teachers only work a 5-6 hour day, max, and they get all summer off, 2 weeks at Christmas, 1 week at Easter and they can retire FIFTEEN YEARS EARLY at 90% of highest salary (which is often six figures).


On a "per hour worked" basis, teachers are some of the highest paid people in the work force, frequently earning $50-75 and much more, PER HOUR ACTUALLY WORKED.


Don't bother, BTW, with the crap about "but they must grade papers at night!" You don't grade papers in gym class, in typing class, in health class, in KINDERGARTEN. And I'm a working professional, and I take work home frequently, and nobody has a pity party for ME. Every professional I know has to take work home -- reports, professional journals, employee evaluations. Nothing unique there. But teachers are whingers and fakers, goldbrickers and clock watchers.


The truth is finally OUT and being heard by the public, and changes are afoot. Thank god for the courage of people like Gov. Chris Christie in speaking "truth to power' when he lets the public know about the greed and corruption in the teacher's union, and how it has dragged our national educational levels down to that of Latvia (and that's an insult to Latvia).

***

BTW: I went to school in the sixties -- height of the baby boom. My classes had 40-44 kids in each -- I have the class pictures to PROVE THIS. And we had ONE teacher per class -- no aides, no assistants, nothing -- and we got a good, decent education. A far better education than 7/8ths of kids today get! We didn't have inflated grades, we did not have social promotion.

What is missing in education today is NOT "small classes" which is just teacher union code for "hire more union teachers at high salaries and bankrupt cities and suburbs".


What is missing is this: get rid of all illegal immigrant children and make it a law they cannot steal an education from the taxpayer.


What is missing is this: utilize unused school buildings (or build new facilities) for REFORM SCHOOL. Really disruptive, violent bad behaving kids need to be in REFORM school, in uniforms, no cell phones and listening to Lawrence Welk muzak all day until they realize they need to mend their ways. Violent, misbehaving kids DESTROY education for the good kids, and drive teachers insane, and suck up all the time and resources. Put them where they can be controlled and disciplined.


What is missing is this: truant officers, and a lot of them. Most schools have missing kids -- staying home to watch TV, fake illnesses, lazy parents, drugs, video games or just hanging with friends. It makes our communities a mess with crime and drugs; it leads to unplanned pregnancies. Get every kid in school.

What is missing is this: pass uniform state laws to FORBID dropping out before age 18 OR graduation from an accredited high school OR a GED. No more dropouts! Don't behave? REFORM SCHOOL. Add to this, no driver's license without a high school diploma. See graduation and literacy rates SOAR.

I could go on all day. American education is an epic failure and white hot crisis. It won't change until we take back power from the evil and corrupt teacher's union, and institute NORMALIZATION of teacher wages, benefits and retirement (i.e, what other people get and no more than that). (_bigguns/laurel)


To Echo One of the First Commenters

If you increase the class sizes of the "best" teachers, you will lose the "best" teachers. The fact is, the best teachers are often those with multiple degrees and certifications, and years of experience spent learning how to manage classrooms and build relationships with students. There are exceptions: I have met a number of teachers who are quite simply gifted--an instinctual ability to relate to young people. However, those teachers are the exceptions. Most of us become successful through hard work, training, mentoring, and practice, practice, practice.


When you start implementing practices that punish your best employees (increasing their work considerably without providing either monetary compensation or professional recognition), you will lose your best employees. And after years of this sort of nonsense, the people who teaching in public schools will be either pure saints, or people who couldn't get hired in any other field.


But that's the plan, isn't it? Deprofessionalize education, and staff the schools of the underclass (i.e., anyone who isn't wealthy and/or influential) with human "information delivery devices." When the kids fail, Rhee, Right-Wing politicians, and their Corporate Sponsors (as well as, I suspect, this Peg Tyre charlatan) will use it as an excuse to abolish public education entirely.


This entire movement is a con. Like the extortionists who took our economy hostage, these people claim to want to destroy public education in order to "save" it. In fact, they just want to destroy public education. (Lisa Rathert)


@Mornings Minion: yadda yadda yadda

Lady, you work at one of the white, affluent privileged private schools in Northeastern Ohio, and they are the kids of millionaires, doctors, sports stars and so forth.


Your experiences are MEANINGLESS to people whose kids are in public school, and can only dream about sending their kids to a lux private academy.

I've met kids from your precious schools, and they are all spoiled, entitled brats.

Do us a BIG FAVOR and tell us what ONE YEAR'S TUITION is at your "Whitey Rich-Kid's Academy".


Then we will know why you can have classes with 15 or 18 kids.

The rest of us live in reality, and we can't afford any more taxes to give teachers summer vacations, or 15 more years in retirement luxury on our dime.

Teachers have failed us again and again and again. They said our kids would thrive is we had "open classrooms" -- we did, and it was a failure. They said "whole language" and "new math" and we did those things (expensively) and our kids were worse off than ever.


They said "raise our salaries! double them! and your kids will learn!" so we raised their salaries to double and more, and our kids failed worse than ever.

They said smaller classes, they said teacher's aides, they said more computers -- we tried everything.

Today, adjusted for inflation, we pay TWICE what we did in 1970 per child, and teachers make more than double in adjusted dollars (and far more benefits) but our kids are worse off than ever.


It's always "the parent's fault" or "societies fault", never the teacher's fault-- the lazy, goldbricking clock watching teachers waiting for their giant cash retirement payout at age 52!!!!


Here is how you solve this problem (Lord Karth is close, but not quite): fire every single member of the teacher's union.

Then go to the local unemployment office. Ask who has a 4-year degree in any subject. Hire those people for $25 a hour (WORKED HOURS only), and a decent but not lux health plan.

Watch our kids thrive and succeed. Because ANYONE chosen at RANDOM would be better than the lazy, useless, goldbricking members of the nation's most corrupt union.

Remember these words: CLAW IT BACK.

That is our only choice -- that or continued failure, because anything the teacher's union proposes is guaranteed failure for our kids. (_bigguns/laurel1962)


Misery

Most liberal Americans are regressing; it's why they're mostly still for Obama (the key lie is not the one Greenwald, with his insistance that Obama actually got the deal he himself wanted, exposes, but the one he ignores: that MOST LIBERALS THEMSELVES at some level MOSTLY KNEW this about him, and mostly explains why they chose him over the "less cooperating" Hillary) and why someone like Laurel/_bigguns talk of "lazy, spoiled" whatevers now appeals to their sensibilities, when before, when they Gollum-in-his-better-mood had kowed back the demons threatening to overwhelm their minds, they would have associated such talk with the Archie Bunkers they were hurriedly leaving behind in the dust.

The talk now is of how the Tea Partiers are responsible for bringing down the whole nation. In my judgment, they're something of a convenience for many liberals who have become more and more comfortable with crackdowns, and are at some level pleased to have them to help hide from themselves for awhile the real fact of who they've become. Without the Tea Partiers, they themselves would have had to figure out a way to argue for the sort of cuts we've just seen, and though they would have found a way it never would have gone down easy with them: guilt over doing the unconscionable would have chomped good portions of them up.

BTW, EVERYTHING worked better in the '60s and '70s; the reason for this owes to the fact that after periods of war and mass sacrifice, people feel entitled, permitted to make life once again about growth. EVERYTHING went downhill in the 80s, and this owes NOTHING to what went on previously -- the truly beneficent 60s social agenda that Laurel complains about, or whatnot -- excepting the key fact that what went on was mostly unambiguously spread-out improvement and dream realization, and this is only permitted a short while before we once again collectively decide we are the sort of immature, sinful, ungrateful cretins to be rightly filled up with a heftier portion of constriction and misery. Republicans go for this sort of thing whole hog, of course, but more liberals than we have yet permitted ourselves to appreciate do also.

Laurel/_bigguns has voted for moderate democrats the whole of the way, and though currently still here a troll she is for the most part representative. This will become more evident here. Even with her talk about gay marriage and teachers, that is, though right now she's considerably ahead of the curve, you can already feel preparations are dutifully being made so that much of the rest of Salon at some point keeps pace with her. It's one big nightmare. I wonder what will happen to the Krugmans, who seem completely absent the afflictions of the punitive superego?


Link: Does class size really matter? (Salon)

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