Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Kari Steeves comments to DOE about class sizes in NYC schools and C4E

This excellent letter is from Kari Steeves, public school parent in District 6 where the CFE lawsuit began.  Send your message today!  The official deadline for public comments on the Contracts for Excellence is March 18. Another sample email is posted here.

From: Kari Steeves
Sent: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 9:55 AM
Subject: Adherance to the CFE

To whom it may concern at the Contract for Excellence division of the New York City Department of Education,
Every year since my first child started public elementary school in 2005, class sizes across New York City and in his school have increased, despite that a lawsuit found that New York City's egregiously large class sizes were depriving our children of their constitutional right to a sound, basic education.  I spend time every week in at least one classroom at my children's school.  I see first hand how important it is for children to receive one-on-one attention daily, to work in a gently buzzing room with minimal discipline distractions, and to know they are safe, well cared-for, and part of a well functioning classroom community.  When those conditions are met, children learn well. 
When the ratio of students to teachers increases, even the most magical teachers cannot possibly create the kind of atmosphere the student, you, or I would need to work, concentrate, and learn.  Large classrooms are not safe.  They do not provide for the basic needs of the people in them.  They are loud, crowded, and full of distractions.  Do you work in a small room with 28 other people, 10 of whom have self-control issues?
First and foremost, New York City has an obligation to its children to make sure their environment is conducive to learning and to provide decent quality of classroom life.  (I'm speaking relatively.  I'm not so utopian that I'd hope we reach the private school levels enjoyed by the children of so many of our elected officials.)
Instead the DOE has systematically implemented policies that have increased our class sizes, including decreasing staff size, co-locations, cutting school budgets, placing special needs children in general education classrooms, writing ridiculous school utilization formulas, poor capital planning, relying on union contracts to dictate classroom levels (which are far too high), and producing no targeted programs to reduce class sizes.  Your current proposals do not redress any of these misguided policies.  Rather than pointing the finger at "ineffectual" teachers, the DOE should be providing the kind of conditions that allow our teachers to be effectual and our children to succeed.  The CFE gives very clear targets.  It is the DOE that has been ineffectual at its job of meeting those targets.
At every school tour, parents ask about student/teacher ratios.  It is our first priority and it is our children's constitutional right, because it impacts on safety, quality of life, and quality of learning.  As required by law in 2007, please reduce class sizes in New York City (all of them!) to at or below CFE levels. 
Kari Steeves, parent District 6


Clay Space 1205 said...

Thank you, Kari. This is spot on. I hope those in charge of this issue will feel the same and respond as you've requested.

Sarah said...

Thanks Kari! Well said and to the point. DOE does have an obligation to provide safe and adequate learning environments that facilitate learning rather than hinder it. I hope you don't mind if other parents use your letter as a model to send to the DOE.

Along this line of reasoning, the DOE has an obligation to provide adequate resources for gym (NOT a shared gymnatorium), science, art, music to all students as we all know that these are components of what most would call an "adequate" education. Why doesn't the DOE take responsibility in providing these elements of a basic and adequate education?

Parents, please consider writing a similar letter to DOE.

Joel said...

An excellent letter and right to the point. The problem is unless we can elect a mayor who really cares about education the same sad trend will just continue. It is sad that for the last nine years our mayor and his cronies have cared much more about test results,charter schools and attacking the UFT then he has about class size.

Gretchen said...

Yes! Thank you Kari. Those jokers who say class size does not matter have clearly not spent time in a K-8 classroom.