As LouAnne Johnson, teacher and author of “Dangerous Minds” once wrote, “When classes are small enough to allow individual student-teacher interaction, a minor miracle occurs: Teachers teach and students learn.”
Yet in in NYC and nationwide, several very different theories of “individualized” instruction have been tried and failed: small schools (even though teaching and learning happen in classrooms, not in hallways or offices); and then intensive data analysis, via teacher “data inquiry teams,” (ditto).
Now online learning is expanding rapidly, with the claim that it will allow for more “personalized” instruction, even though a real live teacher person is being replaced with a machine.
Meanwhile, class sizes continue to grow each day, with policymakers and so-called “experts” denying that this will have a hugely detrimental effect on the quality of education.
In Idaho, the Superintendent of Instruction is proposing to increase class sizes, and with the savings, provide laptops to students, and institute online learning and teacher merit pay -- none of which have any track record of success. In NYC, the Department of Education plans to spend $1 billion next year in capital funds on more technology, so virtual instruction through computers can be implemented in 200 schools, and 400 schools thereafter.
In Texas, legislators have proposed scrapping the long-standing class size limit of 22 per class in grades K-4, which began in the 1980’s and made Texas schools among the highest achieving in the nation, particularly for poor and minority students.
If they would only listen to teachers.
Yesterday, a Texas teacher named John Young recalled how he suddenly discovered how much more easily he could reach his students when only half of them showed up, A snow day, a lesson in class size:
My intuition now tells me that those who trivialize class size aren't as interested in student success as their dime-store slogans say….. Class size matters. Anyone who believes otherwise ought to try saddling up 25 mounts from differing starting points and riding them to one destination.
Many teachers over the years have noticed the same thing; it’s suddenly easier to reach your students, particular the most challenging ones, when an event strikes unexpectedly that causes fewer of them to attend class.
Roe Wrubel, a NYC teacher echoed these sentiments, at a forum that Class Size Matters held a few years ago. She read her essay about her experience of suddenly having her class shrink in size, after 9/11:
Too many subjects, not enough time. Too many necessities, not enough time. Too many possibilities, not enough time. Too many students, not enough time.If only there were less of them, I knew I could make more of a difference. I knew it with my mind. I knew it with my heart. I knew it with my soul. And then it happened. I got my wish.
For the rest, check out Getting My Wish The Wrong Way .