Two articles about Ric Klass’s book about teaching in a large Bronx HS, “Man Overboard: Confessions of a Novice Math Teacher in the
“He does hold out some hope for schools that spend their money on smaller class sizes. “Given the discipline issues, the teacher will only get their attention when there are about 15 students in the class. Small schools, such as those being promoted by the Gates Foundation, are not the answer; it's smaller class sizes.”
And today’s Education supplement of the NY Times features a review of several teacher memoirs , including Ric’s and another by Dan Brown, a former filmmaker who was assigned to an elementary school in the Bronx, “The Great Expectations School: A Rookie Year in the New Blackboard Jungle” to be published in August.
In both, the authors describe their unwieldy class sizes as their most insurmountable challenge. Both fled the public school system and are now teaching in elite NYC private schools where no classes are larger than 15 students.
Ric’s story, in particular, puts the lie to Klein’s claim that we cannot reduce class size because of the shortage of qualified math and science teachers. If we could provide them with smaller classes, more people like Ric – who had all the right credentials, including degrees from MIT and Harvard Business School -- would hang around longer and we’d have a more qualified teaching force. It’s the attrition rate – not the lack of applicants –that doom so many of our students to less effective and experienced teachers.
Here is an excerpt from the review:
Apparently, even those who acknowledge that reducing class size is the key to improving our schools believe it to be a remedy that is “nearly impossible” to achieve, as in the case of the reviewer. This shows that the biggest challenge we face may be changing people’s minds about what is and what is not possible.