Here’s the thing, I actually like the California Teacher’s Empowerment Network. They do a nice job explaining to teachers the rights that the local and national labor unions don’t want you to hear. They make clear the idea of Agency Fee Payer, how to associate with professional organizations, and generally become a thorn in the side of labor organizations that have little interest in education. But with a recent post about the lack of value of class size, CTEN President Larry Sands has decided to jump into the education reform arena while making a blatant attempt to hit on Sacramento’s newest hot politico, Michelle Rhee. Larry, Michelle is married to Kevin Johnson and he’ll so kick your ass.
Arguing about class sizes is kind of like arguing about raising taxes right now. People put up half-ass statistics from small sample sizes while jumping up and down trying get the attention of people who have no damn clue about what is being talked about. When a Republican (I’m a Republican by-the-way) says that we can’t raise a single cent in taxes because of the horrible burden it puts on society, reasonable people just look in pity and say “Jeez, you really are a sorry little fuck” because the truth stares them in the face while they rant. When someone writes about the uselessness of class size reduction the reaction by teachers is much the same, especially when the writer (Mr. Sands) is a former teacher. Michelle Rhee we can blame on lack of experience. She taught for five minutes in Baltimore and then went on to bludgeon people into submitting to her ideals (even if I liked some of them). Larry Sands has been teaching for decades, which leads me to think that either he’s in position to be on somebodies campaign in the future, or he got one hell of a wink from Rhee at some “Why Charter’s Will Cure Aids, Solve the Deficit, and Bring Freedom to Syria” conference.
The City Journal article written by Sands does the opposite of empowering teachers, it makes them out to be union lackeys who are more interested in union money than good education. Yeah, so when I talk to my school board about class size reduction I’m really thinking “Hmmm, I wonder how I can fill the fat belly of my CTA boss”. Sure, that’s exactly what I’m thinking. How about reality.
I have a class of 25 and a class of 35. Question; will the quality of education drop with increase in class size? The answer is, of course it will. It won't be intentional and it won't be for a lack a trying, but struggling students are not going to get the time for help, signs of distress will be overlooked, and teachers are going to have to create lesson plans that put more focus on managing a classroom and less focus on essentials. Now you might say, "Well a good teacher should be able to manage a class of 35 and focus on essentials". Yes and no. I can manage a class of 35 with no problem. But do you think that I'm going to assign more essays during the year with more kids per class? I'll tell you what, those extra 10 students per class equal 50 more essays to grade during my weekend, and that takes a toll on my ability to teach with maximum output and efficiency. Lesson plans will suffer, classroom instruction will suffer (when a teacher actually has a restful weekend, they teach better the next week), and burn out will be right around the corner. And that's for the experienced teacher. Good teachers take years to develop. Think about the new teacher with 35 students per class and the management and work that goes with that situation, compared to 25. The difference is HUGE! I'm telling the new teacher "No, don't make an essay test. Keep it multiple choice" or "Instead of the essay, do a reading and Socratic Seminar" in a class of 35. We are talking about survival here!
In the end, there will always be pundits that don't see the value of class size because they see it as a crutch for bad teachers. Note to pundits, it won't change the bad teachers and it will make life more difficult for good ones. And stop giving stupid ass statistics that make classrooms out to have 20 kids.
“ If we……dismiss the lowest-performing 5 percent of teachers without hiring replacements, a class of 20 would then increase by just one student. Ask any parent if he’d rather have his child in a class of 21 kids with a high-performing educator or in a class of 20 with a mediocre one.”
I’ll tell you what the parent will say. He/she will wonder if his/her kids are Special Education eligible or in super high Advanced Placement courses because those are the only classes I know of that are anywhere near 20/1. I’ve looked at my numbers for this year. I have one class just over 30, three classes at 35, and one class at 37-38. I don’t mind the numbers but don’t insult the intelligence of educators by saying 20 students is a class norm.
And writing nutty reformist posts about class sizes is not the way to Michelle’s heart, bro! Kevin will not be amused. Dude, he knows Charles Barkley! Do you really want the Round Mound after ya?