Chicago Teacher's Union:
There's a lot at stake in the closing debate for Chicago Public Schools, which sees eliminating redundant facilities as one piece of a long-term strategy to force efficiencies and address a chronic fiscal crisis.
For parents and students, the prospect of being shifted away from familiar, nearby schools — even those where student performance lags — can be a daunting and even scary prospect in a city where crossing more streets brings with it expense, inconvenience and safety concerns.
Michelle Harris, president of the Local School Council at May Elementary in the Austin neighborhood, also sees the consolidation efforts as a threat to school quality.
"In western suburbs like Forest Park, where my kids used to go to school, they sure wouldn't be OK with 30 students in a classroom," Harris said. "When there's more children in a classroom, there's less learning time and less personal time with the teacher."
May is one of the 129 schools under consideration for closing. This year there are 463 students enrolled at May, under half its ideal capacity as figured by school officials.
Becky Carroll, a CPS spokeswoman, argued that big classes don't necessarily hamper learning.
"It's the quality of teaching in that classroom," Carroll said. "You could have a teacher that is high-quality that could take 40 kids in a class and help them succeed."
I am having a VERY hard time believing that a spokesperson for public schools said this. It literally makes me want to bang my head on the desk in frustration.
Yes it certainly does help to have a good teacher. However these people are educators NOT wizards!
They can teach, perhaps their teaching can even be categorized as"high-quality," but that is only part of the challenge.
They also have to deal with the different learning capabilities of the students in their classroom. The teacher may be "high-quality" but it is unlikely that in a room full of 40 students that they can all be categorized as such.
This teacher will invariably have students that have IEP's and require special attention, students that did not get enough sleep, students that were passed through the system even they are still several grades behind their peers, students that are hungry because there is not enough food at home, and students who have behavioral problems whihc result in disruption within the classroom.
This "high-quality" teacher might be able to adequately educate 75% of her class in this atmosphere, but at least a quarter of them will fail, or learn so little that they might as well have failed.
What's more the strain of trying to teach this size classroom, year in and year out, will eventually burn this "high-quality" teacher out and send her running to the private sector in the hopes of finding some more reasonable classroom size in a private Christian school, where science is considered unimportant and trouble makers are simply expelled.
Look I've worked in a number of classrooms, I was the support staff for those teachers, and I can tell you that even under optimum conditions some of these teachers barely make it to the end of the year with their sanity intact. There is tremendous pressure to succeed, and often not nearly enough support, leaving teachers terrified of failing their students.
The idea of expanding the class sizes and then holding the educators to some unreachable "high-quality" standard is cruel and punitive, and will ultimately result in the failure of the school in which it takes place.
But what can you expect when a non-teacher tries to address the problems of education?