Thursday, July 21, 2011

Class sizes to rise to thirty in elementary schools next year?

I have heard from several sources that elementary school principals have been told by their network leaders to plan for average class size of thirty in grades K-5 next year.  (see letter below from the School Leadership Team at PS 3.)
This would represent an increase of 6.4 children per class compared to last year; or an increase of 27%, and would represent the largest class sizes in these grades in at least twenty years or more.  
When Dennis Walcott was testifying before the NYC Council, he said that even with 4100 teacher layoffs, he did not expect class sizes to increase any more than 1.5 students per class. The layoffs were averted, but because budget cuts to schools are still so large, principals are being told to that the increase may be more than four times as large.  See the letter in protest from the PS 3 SLT below.
This is despite the fact that class size reduction is the top priority of parents again in the DOE learning environment survey, for the third year in a row, and a law was passed by the state legislature in 2007, requiring that NYC reduce class size in all grades..
If you have heard anything about your school’s class sizes next year, please contact me at
July 20, 2011
Dear Chancellor Walcott,
One of the phrases that we hear all too frequently is, “Class size is not important. Teacher quality is.” This argument rings hollow.
We are graced with high quality teachers; however when they have too many students whose needs they are trying to address, their effectiveness declines. The image that comes to mind is that of the juggling troupe, The Flying Karamazov Brothers, who juggle odd assortments of objects, even soliciting some from the audience. However, no matter how skilled the juggler, if s/he attempts to manage too many objects at once, some fall. In our instance, unfortunately, what falls is children.
The Department of Education is considering a budget premised on increasing class sizes for grades 1-5 to 30 students per class.  We are writing to urge you not to adopt a budget that requires such an increase.
While we are sympathetic that budget cuts must be made and priorities must be shifted, increasing class size will fundamentally hinder learning. The simple fact is that teachers cannot provide optimal, differentiated instruction for 25 young children as well as they can for 20, let alone for 32. Even excellent teachers have limits to their energy, time, patience, and ability to solve the infinite array of problems that facilitating learning involves.  At PS 3, we have seen firsthand how increase in class size can negatively impact teachers’ energy and students’ ability to learn.
The timing of this proposed class size increase is particularly unfortunate, as our school community has been enthusiastic about incorporating instruction and assessments that address the new Common Core Standards, an initiative that New York City and State are supporting with great vigor.   Larger class sizes are likely to be highly discouraging to instructional staff.  This has nothing to do with teacher attitudes, which are positive and inclusive, but rather the difficulty of implementing so many changes at once.
 We urge you not to move forward with a budget that requires increased class size.  It would be a major step backward for closing the gap in providing quality education for all.
 Sincerely, PS 3 SLT
Denise Collins, Chairperson                         
Dana Abraham                                               Patricia Laraia
Liz Craig                                                         Kirsty Mogensen
Nick  Gottlieb                                                 Jackie Peters
Jean Hale                                                       Amie Schindel
Kimberly Jensen                                             Cassidy Sehgal
Stephanie Kim                                                Lisa Siegman
Susan Korn                                                     Susan Soler

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