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Saturday, September 6, 2014

Welcome back, parents (and teachers), and please let us know what your child's class sizes are this year


Dear parents:

Welcome back to another school year; I hope you all had a great summer.  There is one big and potentially great addition to our schools this fall – expanded preK.  Unfortunately we expect the damaging trend in K-12 to likely continue:  larger classes, and even more school overcrowding.

Last week, the results of the DOE school surveys were released, and for the 8th year in a row, smaller classes were the top priority of NYC public school parents.  Yet class sizes have risen for 8 years, and many principals and teachers have told us they were hit with unexpected budget cuts over the summer, forcing them to let go of teachers and increase class size yet again.

We are still looking into why these budget cuts occurred - but meanwhile, we have posted a 5 min. survey for parents and educators to take here.   All responses will remain anonymous unless you indicate otherwise; please parents, also forward this survey to your child’s teachers and principal. If you don’t know your children’s class sizes, please count the roster, or if they’re older, ask them to count heads themselves, and/or ask their teachers.  Most teachers will be happy to let you know.

About a week ago,  parents at PS 85 in Queens emailed the Chancellor and complained that the DOE was forcing their 2nd grade class sizes to increase to 35-36 students per class.  They copied me and I posted the letter from the PTA co-chair on our blog.  The next day the Chancellor announced she had reversed the decision, and was authorizing the hiring of another teacher to reduce class sizes to 24.

Note:  You can achieve improvements if you can organize other parents in your school and especially if you have your principal on your side. If you too are experiencing such an egregious situation, with outrageous class size increases, especially if they clearly violate the union contract, let me know asap at leonie@classsizematters.org.  Here are the UFT class size limits.

Sadly, the union class size limits are far too large and have not been lowered in forty years, despite the wealth of research evidence since about the critical importance of small classes.  And we really need a citywide school improvement plan; NYC children will never receive their right to a quality education solely on the efforts of parents at individual schools.

Nevertheless, here is a Parent Toolkit we have put together that you can use to organize other parents on the issue of class size, or any other issue you think important.  It has some basic strategies you can use to push for positive change in your schools, and some parents have told me they found it very helpful.

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