Thursday, March 07, 2013

Class size not an issue so long as you have "high quality" teachers? On what planet?

Courtesy of the 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?


  1. Anonymous3:35 AM

    The problem with 40 kids per class is classroom management. So much more time must be spent getting that many kids settled down, concentrating, and doing work. I am certain the people who come up with these stupid statements have NEVER EVER run a class with 40 kids.


  2. Anonymous3:49 AM

    To answer your last question, you get nonsensical ignorance.

  3. CJWhite4:20 AM

    I’m stunned that this person is even remotely involved in education. It’s all about breaking the teacher’s union on the backs of the browner kids. I’ve been teaching for twenty years and there is no way I could teach a class of forty. The smaller the class sized, the better the education. Right now I work at an academy within Hutto High School (Hutto, Texas, look it up!) teaching students who just don’t do well in the traditional school setting. We are very successful for one simple reason; no class has more than ten students. It is a very expensive program, the only reason the district supports us (other than our success) is that it became too expensive for the district to have these students drop out, and nearly every one of our graduates would have dropped out.

  4. Anonymous4:26 AM

    Thank you Gryphen, for voicing the realities of teaching in public Schools. As an educator who cares about students (and the vast majority of us do), it is so frustrating to have non-educators (who likely have never stepped into a classroom after their own student careers are over) make decisionis that have no connection to the reality of teaching in crowded schools.

    Here in the midwest, middle and high school teachers have five, often six, classes a day of nearly 30 students per classes. That means they have to provide as much individulaized instruction as they can to 150 to 180 students per day!

    Each class has five to eight students who have either diagnosed learning disabilities or are not fluent in English. There are usually one or two translators per 1,500 student schools. In a large school, there may only be six or seven Special Needs Aides (if budgets haven't cut those numbers). for all those students.

    Add-in school board policies that allow students to have 14 excused absences per quarter (four quarters in a school year) and five unexcused absenses per quarter - hmm, that means a student can legitimately miss 76 days of classes each year.

    When a school year is approximately 185 days long, think about how big an obstacle those lost days are for effective teaching.

    I think every parent will concede that even the most well-behaved child will act up at least once a month. Think about having responsibility for all students and never knowing whether one or more per class will have their "act out " day at school. That acting out can range from sulking, to throwing things, to sassing back, ignoring the teacher altogether to flashing a knive or gun. or hitting another student or even the teacher. Sometimes a parent will even demonstrate their own lack of self-control, calling the teacher or appearing in person during class time to demand that a grade be changed.

    Older teachers are retiring as soon as they can. Younger teachers are leaving the field, and fewer college kids are going into teaching. Insurance rates for teachers are higher than most due to the high levels of stress. It doesn't take a genius to figure out why. So few people understand or even try to understand the context within which teachers try to teach.

    At least here, teachers designated as Master Teachers by the state (an annual award meant to encourage excellence) are either elementary school teachers (where smaller classrooms are more likely due to the higher number of elementary schools) or are middle or high school teachers in subject areas (e.g., AP, math, science) or at schools (suburban or special subject schools) which draw fewer students.

    Thank you for drawing attention to the realities. It is clear that you have experienced frustration listening to decision-making authorities who have no real experience teaching in a modern classroom.

  5. Anonymous4:36 AM

    We are dealing with his from K-1 to the university system in Indiana, thanks to the Indianapolis south knuckledragging Neanderthals (and that's just those in the guv's seat and legislature). One campus of the Purdue landgrant system has had its budget cut so severely that some classes will go from 25 to 60 students. When instructors and professors pointed out that small, interactive classes had been an attraction in doubling enrollment, they were told, don"t worry, just stop having students write papers and give them Scantron tests instead. Most classrooms aren't even large enough to hold 60 desks.

    This is the same area with K classes of 30 with NO aides. Tell me the TeaTHUGS aren't destroying education?!?

  6. Anonymous5:59 AM

    I read this and understand.

    But -- I have to add a 'but'.

    The statement that there is only 463 students enrolled as at May being half the capacity of the school -- it doesn't say the size of school -- number of classrooms. If it does mean 1/2 with 30 student classrooms as it may have been functioning at - reality has to be addressed. You cannot keep the school open. When lower enrollment in that school, you know there is lower in other schools too.

    There are things that you cannot stick your head in the sand and chant 'ummmmmm'. I'm sorry -- but if I only listen to teachers as a few family members are -- it's no different than listening only to Dems or Repubs in politics. And I have to say -- I'm not high on the listening list of listening to these family members as they're spewing crap that I've researched them on and caught them in BS.

    When will people learn -- not every article you read spews truth. There is always bias to one side. Media lost their credibility LONG ago. And articles by Teachers Union is no different. The FACT the President of Local School Council is pissed with class sizes of 30 -- she doesn't have an ax to grind in the conversation at all. She'll say and do everything my family members will as she's close minded and will hear nothing to attempt to improve things.

  7. ARRRRGGG!!! There a so many uber fantastic teachers out there.....but they are NOT superhuman!!! I have worked with some pretty dedicated and dynamic teachers willing to take on the huge classroom foisted on them, only to watch SO MANY of those kids fall through the cracks or barely eeek by. This woman is a delusional horse's ass.

  8. Anonymous7:30 AM

    I teach 3 yr olds by myself with an occasional trained middle school student to help at recess and other special activities. Handling 25 toddlers isn't bad for someone who can handle it.

    But as a HS or Jr High teacher, a class of more than 25 independent minds is going to frazzle even the most experienced teacher.

    1. Anonymous9:17 AM

      3 year olds? Exactly what are you expected to TEACH them? Apples and orange. And in many states, what you are doing is illegal those numbers at.

  9. Anonymous8:24 AM

    Sure you could have a really great teacher that could manage 40 kids in a classroom just like I could really have a unicorn that f**ts glitter.:>)

    Or not...just sayin....

    1. Anonymous9:19 AM

      ActuallyI was once in a first grade class of 50 as a student. Private RCC school - selective enrollment and corporal punishment- at school and home. Under those barbaric conditions, it can work.

  10. Anonymous3:46 PM

    As someone who works in a city elementary school with primary grade students, I see the enormous difference class size makes every year. The larger the number of students, the more difficult it is to give all of them the attention they need.

    Now include the brand new Common Core curriculum that teachers need to learn (mostly on their own time) and the pressures of increased standardized testing that often determines teachers' salary and/ or employment. Add to that delightful educational pressure cooker an ever-increasing number of students who have little or no structure and discipline at home (often from parents who are little more than children themselves) and the students with special needs who are increasingly being placed back in general ed with NO support. Mix well with a dash of scorn from the general public and you have a recipe for educational disaster.

    Or, as the companies and politicians seeking to privatize education prefer to call it...MEGA FUTURE PROFITS!!!!!

  11. Anonymous3:54 PM

    This is pure horseshit! I've been in the education system over 25 years; and I agree with your observation.

  12. Anonymous5:56 PM

    I taught 36 first graders in a Title One (low income) school. I'll grant I may not have been the greatest teacher ever. It was the most frustrating two years I ever experienced. I had to watch child after child not do well because I never had the few minutes necessary to reteach a vital concept I knew they would get with just a little help. One day I figured out if I gave every child three minutes, it would take the entire day. THREE MINUTES! Kids deserve a whole lot better.

    Elizabeth 44

  13. emrysa8:43 PM

    well she's a goddam nutbag... 40 kids and one teacher? yeah right, that will work in fantasy land.


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