Monday, November 10, 2014

How the DOE ignoring class size puts kids at risk, according to education professionals and parents

Check out the oped in Schoolbook by Jacqueline Shannon and Mark Lauterbach, professors of education, urging the Chancellor and the Mayor to lower class size in the city's schools:  De Blasio Must put Reducing Class Sizes at Top of His Agenda.  As the authors point out, the trend towards larger class sizes every year for the past six will underminethe success of the Mayor's other education initiatives, including special education inclusion, expanding preK and creating community schools.  

They also show how the union contractual limits have not altered in forty years, despite the far more extensive research in recent years, including  studies summarized in this NEPC report, showing the multiple benefits of smaller classes in terms of academic and life outcomes: 

“Students who were originally assigned to small classes did better than their school-mates who were assigned to regular-sized classes across a variety of outcomes, including juvenile criminal behavior, teen pregnancy, high school graduation, college enrollment and completion, quality of college attended, savings behavior, marriage rates, residential location and homeownership.”

The Schoolbook oped also links to a letter to the Chancellor and the Mayor, signed by 73 professors of education, reflecting the strong consensus among experts in the field that the issue of class size is fundamental to the opportunity to succeed, particularly for at-risk students, "including those in children of color, those in poverty, English language learners, and students with special needs."  

The reality is that even in the city's most struggling schools, like Boys and Girls High School, where staff is being asked to re-apply to keep their positions, class sizes remain much too large -- with many classes at the union maximum of 34 students per class, according to the DOE's own class size reports from last fall. 

The chart at the right reveals that class sizes at the Boys and Girls were inordinately high, particularly in 9th grade classes, where it's most important to keep students on track.  Class sizes were lower in the upper grades, presumably because many of the school's students didn't get that far.  Many of the special ed classes even violated the 12/1/1  limits, according to the DOE reports (see the last column for the size of the largest classes in each of these categories.)

Moreover, lowering class size remains the top priority of parents to improve their schools, according to the DOE's own Learning Environment Survey.   And yet, there are only two parents on the committee to decide on staffing for Boys and Girls and Automotive HS, one to be chosen by the teachers union and the other by the principals union rather than other parents; and NO parent members on the committees to decide on the improvement strategies.

The DOE claims to be listening to parents more than the past administration; I'm not sure what that means if they continue to ignore their views on what their schools need to succeed.


Chaz said...

Reducing class size means hiring more teachers and placing the ATRs, not to mention building more classrooms.

Its not about the students its about the money when it comes to the DOE.

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Anonymous said...

As a teacher I can say that nothing is more important to student learning than small class sizes. Even teachers who are considered ineffective can do well if given a class of 15 students. 30+ children in a class sets everyone up for failure. Combine that with students that have no parental involvement in their lives and it becomes disastrous. 30:1 puts the advantage on the student side and allows them to misbehave or just plain old ignore the lesson without much issue.
If all the money being put into privatizing education and trying to profit off of children was put into lowering class sizes, there wouldn't be such an education crisis. Unfortunately, the politicians and business people want to destroy education because they could privatize it if it was working properly. The Cuomos, Pearsons, and charters of this world care about money, not actually helping your kids.

Tania Stanwood said...

I have been reading a book by a former NY school teacher who left her job as she was fighting a broken system. Things like class sizes is a prime example. Her look into the classroom and the struggles of her and her students is a real eye opener. Breaking the Silence is the book, M. Shannon Hernandez is the author. It's a worthwhile read on this very thing. is her site.