Friday, May 10, 2013

Expert on school finance and equity Bruce Baker concludes: class sizes in NYC schools are freakin’ huge!

Yesterday, Bruce Baker of Rutgers presented one of his brilliant statistical exposes on his School Finance 101 blog, revealing the inequities in funding and class size between NYC and the rest of the state.  Here are some of his findings, though I suggest you read the whole blog.

This chart shows how the higher poverty level students at a school in NYS, the larger the class sizes, and the disparity has worsened over time.  You can see that now, 90% of high poverty elementary school classes in New York state are above the recommended level of 20 students per class.  64% are above 23 students per class in high poverty schools:

Here are New York state middle school class sizes, based  on the poverty level of the school, showing a similar disparity and worsening trend:
 Here are the class size distributions over time in NYC schools, compared to what they should be according to expert judgement in the CFE case (20 or under in K-3; 21-23 students in 4th-8th grade.)
In contrast, here are the class sizes are at the wealthier suburban districts on Long Island and Westchester, with most of them at the recommended level:
Most eighth grade math class sizes in NYC schools have about thirty students per class, far above the recommended level:
Compare this with the wealthier suburban districts, with much lower class sizes:
Bruce's conclusion.
What is notable here is that:
  • class sizes in NYC schools continue to increase over time.
  • class sizes in NYC schools are much larger than those in the top wealth/income quintile
  • Further, compared to essential resources thresholds, class sizes in NYC are freakin’ huge! Yeah… that’s a technical term for you… freakin’ huge!!!!!
For those hack pundits who’ve latched on to the “uncertainty” or “narrowness” of research on the effectiveness of class size reduction (& bogus characterizations of “cost effectiveness”), there is little if any justification for permitting class sizes in high poverty settings at 30 or higher. Further, class size, and total student load are a relevant working condition influencing teacher recruitment/retention.
In simpler terms, there is certainly little basis for the inequity here. From a simple fairness standpoint, it makes little sense that children in the top 20% districts by wealth and income should have access to such smaller classes than children in New York City and that these disparities should year after year be a byproduct of the state’s dysfunctional, inequitable school finance system and overblown false claims that serve to maintain that status quo!

1 comment:

Contemporary Art Education said...

I taught in the Los Angeles city school system from 1995-2003. As an electives teacher I had 38-42+ students in my classes and according to a NY Times report in 2011, these sizes are being replicated in other courses/grades. I imagine that NY State is following on the heels of California when it comes to class size. The larger system does not want to pay to educate children and youth from high-needs communities.