Monday, January 24, 2005

The Class Size "Misdirection"

I think we can all agree that class size is an important issue to us as educators. But for a moment, I'd like to challenge the notion that reducing our class load is absolutely essential to changing test scores or student learning. In light of the reality that reducing class size requires a significant allotment of money, due to the need for more teachers, shouldn't we as educators be responsible for finding alternative solutions that don't require more teachers.
Universities and colleges, in general, do not have small class sizes. Yet the higher education pathway is the one we push and prod our students into. What makes that system work for a university like the local state school and not for our local high schools that are the preparing fields? Does it not work for us because we, as educators, are not as skilled or knowledgeable as a university professor?
I'll be the first to admit a few things. One is that I am not as educated in my specific field as a university professor. I don't have a Master's degree. Two is that I've definitely complained about grading all those papers I assign as an English teacher. But why can't I make a class session work well unless there are less than 35 students in my room? I'll be honest about not minding the idea of being paid much more than I am if meant two things: the first is having a Master's in my field, and two, having to teach classes with more students.
I just have a hard time believing that reducing the size of a class will make an ineffective teacher better. Isn't the truth that before we worry about reducing class size, we worry about making sure all of our teachers are the best. That teaching is what they are good at, and their level of content mastery is significant. When private companies want better performance, they don't hire more people; they spend their money wisely on training the employees they have. The private sector rarely forces its employees to dish out thousands of dollars to improve. The company invests the money beforehand to ensure a committed and proficient employee.

In the public world of education, we are forcing our young and promising teachers to commit to a level of mastery while making them pay for it. In addition, in an effort to reduce class size, we hire more and more teachers, the result being money spread over the masses, thereby stifiling the earnings of new teachers.
So maybe class size reduction isn't as important as we think. Perhaps we can improve the education of our students without all the so called reforms on the table. Maybe we need to be more creative in our approach to reform.


At 5:50 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Consider having 35 two year olds in one classroom with one teacher. Once you are helping one student the other 34 are tossing things at each other etc.

THe maturity level of higher education students who are paying for their education is a different story than 35-45 elementary/middle and high school students.

I have taught in community college and never spent a minute on writing passes to the bathroom or finding tissues for a student with buggers running down their face. But in 11th grade I have had to help a student to the bathroom who was sick.

I do not believe it is the ability of the teacher we need to discuss for class size rather the maturity and ability of the students to be good learners.

Good learners can have 50 kids in a class.

But those are the kids in private schools it's the poor students, learning disabled and the truly overwhelmed young people that are in class with 30 kids like themselves.

I would lov eto have a class with 50 students that were mature enough to handle sitiing for 50 minutes.

At 1:13 AM , Anonymous deen said...

wow... you have a blog from 2005..:-)

thanx for sharing all your thought...
the size class in my country is still not acceptable...40 students in one class...:-(


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