Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Send a message to Obama about the need for smaller classes now!

Obama’s transition team has a website, with proposals for his administration to consider, suggested by members of the public. I just posted one about the need for class size reduction, along with funding to build more schools.

Please, go now and vote for smaller classes -- you can also leave a comment on the website. According to his transition team, "the top 10 ideas are going to be presented to the Obama Administration on Inauguration Day and will be supported by a national lobbying campaign run by Change.org, MySpace, more than a dozen leading nonprofits after the Inauguration. So each idea has a real chance at becoming policy.

The first round of voting to determine the top three ideas in each category will end tomorrow, December 31 – so there isn’t much time! Why is this important?

Recently, there has been an unprecedented attack on class size reduction at the national level by policymakers, bloggers, business leaders and foundations, despite the fact that smaller classes are one of the few education reforms that have been proven to work, according to the research arm of the US Dept. of Education, and that also have widespread support among parents and educators.

In a recent report, Andrew Rotherham, an influential inside-the-beltway blogger, has proposed that school districts no longer be able to use their federal Title II education funds for this purpose – despite the fact that about half of all districts currently invest these funds in smaller classes. Instead, he wants to require that this critical funding be spent on more experimental and controversial programs, that are supposedly “high leverage” – like teacher performance pay and Teach for America.

In support of his opposition to class size reduction, he cites not a single research study (because none exists) but an oped published in the Daily News last year, written by Robert Gordon, a consultant employed by Joel Klein and another inside-the-beltway policy wonk, who trashed public school parents for their “class size obsession”.

Like Joel Klein and Jim Liebman, Gordon is an attorney with no experience as an educator or researcher. Yet both Rotherham and Gordon are being promoted by the charter school privatization and testing crowd to receive top-level appointments in an Obama administration.

Their attacks on class size have been joined in recent opeds by conservative commentator, David Brooks of the NY Times, who wrote that small classes were a “superficial” reform, compared to “merit pay for good teachers, charter schools and tough accountability standards”, and Lou Gerstner, former head of IBM, who baldly stated in the Wall St. Journal that class size “does not matter” and is pushing for the abolition of all school districts (along with more merit pay and testing.)

The most powerful man in education circles today, Bill Gates, who intends to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on the newest flavors of the week, including -- you guessed it -- more charter schools, testing, and merit pay, recently joined in on the chorus, attacking class size reduction in a prominent speech,

So vote for smaller classes here, if you would like Obama to consider supporting class size reduction and more school construction. Help him resist the loud but clueless voices of the DC education policy establishment.


Please forward this message to others who care, and Happy New Year.

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