Quality first

Reducing class size shouldn’t be the priority in urban districts, writes Andrew Rotherham in the NY Daily News.

. . . reducing class size without addressing teacher quality more broadly is akin to continually adding pitchers to your bullpen without worrying about whether any of them can even throw a fastball.

If there aren’t enough good teachers to handle the increased number of classes, the poorest kids end up with the least-trained teachers. That happened in California when class size was cut to 20 students in K-3. For many students, the benefits of smaller classes — evidence shows a clear benefit in kindergarten and first grade — were cancelled out by the decline in teacher quality.

Here’s the other side of the issue.

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Comments

  1. Joanne Jacobs wrote:

    Here’s the other side of the issue.

    I suppose that’s the only way to describe the editorial but since it entirely ignores the question of teacher quality it’s only the “other side of the issue” in the sense that the other side of the issue is carefully ignored.

  2. Mike in Texas says:

    So where’s the outrage that Emperor Bloomberg squandered lower class size money and defied a court order?

    Where’s the accountability the “reformers” claim they want to see?

  3. Yes, but will small class sizes compensate for lousy teachers? Or is that an oxymoron?

  4. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Better 30 attentive and obedient children than 10 troublemakers. Whack off both ends of the curve and put the money where it does the most good.

  5. “will small class sizes compensate for lousy teachers?” Define “small”. It’s unlikely that homeschooling parents are actually better teachers than trained teachers, but on the average they get better results. So it seems likely that even a fairly poor teacher could do well for class sizes of 6 or less. (I know homeschoolers with that many kids.) My guess is that this is because with that small a group, you don’t lecture and try to run a class in lockstep, but you tutor each kid separately while the others study independently – and the teacher soon learns what works and what doesn’t for each kid.

    However, with much over six kids you cannot give enough individual attention and wind up mostly in the lecturing/lockstep mode. So a good teacher will do better with 30 kids than a poor one with 15, since they are both doing pretty much the same things, only one of them is doing it better.

    And to answer Walter, if the school administration, parents, and general environment don’t support discipline, the kids will not be able to learn no matter what the class size is.

  6. I don’t have to define “small”, that’s Mike in Texas’ favorite solution of the moment. By the way, he’s of the opinion that the inevitably wonderful effects of class size starts with a 15/1 ratio.

    It’s unlikely that homeschooling parents are actually better teachers than trained teachers, but on the average they get better results.

    Why? Is there some objective measure of teacher skill that can be applied to both or is this just another unimpeachable assumption? Since there isn’t any of the former it must be the latter. Consider this official notice of impeachment.

    So a good teacher will do better with 30 kids than a poor one with 15, since they are both doing pretty much the same things, only one of them is doing it better.

    Oh, I’ll go ya one better. A good teacher with 30 kids can do better for every one of them then a lousy teacher one-on-one. If that’s the case then some means of measuring, or at least valuing, teacher skill is a necessary prerequisite to a good education.

    Since there’s no value placed on teaching skill, indeed the notion that there are varying degrees of teaching skill is itself controversial, it certainly makes sense to look at factors other then teaching skill.

  7. Indigo Warrior says:

    The quality of the kids being force-educated makes a difference as well. Most of the successful outcomes with small class sizes are those with students literally blazing with motivational fire.