Wednesday, December 27, 2023

How small classes "can provide a turning point in a student's belief in themselves; letter from youth advocate Al Kurland to Commissioner Rosa

Along with a generous donation, I found this copy of a letter to Commissioner Rosa in an envelope sent by Al Kurland, a long-time youth advocate, urging her to require DOE to develop and implement a real class size reduction plan, in alignment with the new state law. AQE and Class Size Matters sent a similar if longer letter to her a few days earlier, pointing out how as of yet, DOE had done nothing to enable schools to meet the benchmarks in the law starting next year.  

Al's letter is so wonderful I thought I'd share it, as it resonates with everything we know about why smaller classes are so important.  You can read  about many of Al's accomplishments here.  Below he explains how small classes "can provide a turning point in a student's belief in themselves as learners in the development of becoming better informed and confident people." Take a look, and if you agree, donate to Class Size Matters to help make this turning point a reality for all NYC students.


December 2, 2023 

Betty Rosa, Commissioner of Education 

To Betty Rosa: 

I am contacting you in urgent appeal for maintaining and sustaining the crucial baseline of adhering to the recommended standards so eloquently pointed out by Class Size Matters and its allies. The evidence of its benefits to students and teachers has been amply established both by research and enhanced teacher-learner experiences in the classroom. 

I had been an after school youth services advocate and director for years, beginning in 1984 with the Uptown Dreamers and Southern Heights, and with the Police Athletic League from which I retired in 2020. Especially during the early years of my tenure, I saw the negative effects of students and teachers who had to deal with vastly overcrowded classrooms. The one constant I came to learn is that the smaller the ratio between student and teacher, i.e. the more time available for questions and answers, guided direction, and focused attention, the more beneficial the time spent in this partnership of mutual understanding. Even a few minutes extra time can provide a turning point in a student's belief in themselves as learners in the development of becoming better informed and confident people. 

Our classroom teachers, who are so devoted to maximizing possibilities for their students, and so unselfish in contributing their own time at home in reading and marking the work of students, also derive deeper satisfaction. Increased dialogue, clarifying questions, and Ah Hah moments help to deepen the bond between teacher and students. 

I most urgently ask that the class size baselines for smaller numbers of students in classrooms be maintained where they already exist, and established in places where we fall short. Funding for anti-poverty practices and reducing class size should not be competing priorities, indeed, reducing class size is an essential target in the fight to reduce poverty. 

Thank you for your attention and support. 


Alfred Kurland 

cc: State Senator John Liu

Alliance for Quality Education Campaign Coordinator Amshula Jayaram


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I’m a retired elementary teacher from the NYC public school system. During the last ten years of my career, the emphasis was on reform. So much money and time were wasted on ideas that never panned out. When it comes to education, true reform needs to occur in the effectiveness of delivery of of that education to each and every student. Reducing class size is the most important step in improving the delivery of education. Any teacher can tell you that on a snowy day, when schools are open but attendance is lower than usual, the opportunities for better communication and clarification are astounding. Lowering class size is essential.