By state law, Florida schools must cut class sizes, but schools have found ways to get around the law, reports the Miami Herald.
Many school districts have the money to hire teachers but can’t afford to build classrooms. So administrators have taken advantage of loopholes in the state formula, which does not actually measure class size, but rather the ratio of students to teachers in each classroom. Here is what they are doing:
— Mainstreaming special-education students, which has the ancillary benefit of reducing class size, at least on paper. If the special-education teacher is counted as a second teacher, the student/teacher ratio is cut in half.
— Having a specialist — such as a reading teacher — visit a classroom for one period, which reduces the student/teacher ratio for that period, and thus for the day. Since class-size data are collected on a specific day each week, schools can reduce their reported ratio by scheduling specialists in large classes on that day.
— Pulling students out of class for tutoring, speech therapy or other special help on the day of the count.
— Putting two classes in one room, with two teachers, who can “team-teach.”
At Hallandale Elementary for example, the state of Florida says teacher Danielle Eberly’s class has 18 first-graders.
But when Eberly is standing before her class, she’s speaking to 36 children, not 18. As Eberly teaches, her co-teacher, LoriAyne Stickler, might be doing paperwork, or walking around the room to make sure her youngsters understand the lesson. Then the two reverse roles.
Research shows small classes benefit students in kindergarten and first grade; after that, the evidence is murky. The two-teacher model described in the story has a lot in common with staffing classrooms with a teacher and an aide; there’s no evidence that aides improve student performance, though they make the teacher’s job less stressful.