Saturday, May 13, 2006

Less is More

After reading the NY Times article , G.O.P. Lawmakers Deal a Setback to Governor Bush in Florida, I came to realize that NYC taxpayers and parents need to value the education of their children the way the voters in Florida do. I admire the initiative of the people of Florida. The parents and teachers in Florida want smaller class sizes, but their governor claims it will cost too much. Who gets to ultimately make this choice, voters and taxpayers or the governor?

“A definitive study put out by the US Department of Education recently looked at the achievement levels of students in 2,561 schools across the nation, as measured by their performance on the national NAEP exams. The sample included at least 50 schools in each state, including those from large and small, urban and rural, affluent and poor areas. After controlling for student background, the only objective factor that was found to be correlated with higher student success as measured by test scores was class size not school size, not teacher qualifications, nor any other variable that the researchers could identify.“ (

What cost are we talking about? How much will it cost when we do not live up to the responsibility of educating our young? It is already costing too much not to fix the class size problem?

An excerpt from the NY Times article reads:

“Class sizes in Florida were limited in 2002 by a ballot initiative that was approved by voters and supported by teachers' unions. The law calls for gradually cutting class sizes by 2010 to 18 students in kindergarten through third grade; 22 students in fourth grade through eighth grade, and 25 in high school.

While running for re-election in 2002, Mr. Bush made the class size issue central to his platform, warning that it would cost billions of dollars to build schools and hire teachers to comply with the limits.

He has since tried repeatedly to offer enticements to eliminate the limits, tying the plan to teacher salary increases and to a requirement that school districts direct at least 65 percent of their money toward classroom spending. The amendment most recently defeated would have raised the class size limits by five students, among other changes.”

I am constantly receiving emails about rallies in Albany held to limit class size. I usually disregard them as wishful thinking. Unfortunately until now I was in the dark that we could actually do something about this. I can’t believe I teach civics and have been sitting back thinking I do not have a voice.

We are so lucky to have the opportunity to teach children. Finally we have the chance to do it right. Classes would perform much better with ten fewer students in each teacher’s care.


Anonymous said...

The UFT has been fighting to reduce class size for one of the biggest positions they take against the powers that be. I have been on demonstrations to Albany but not for many years and so far they have been unsuccessful and it of course comes down to dollars and cents.

And what about us at QHST??? What could we be doing? How about instead of electives that seem somewhat pointless (no offence intended to anyone) why aren't teachers teaching 4 classes within each cohort so that class size in the major subjects are smaller and teachers then teach one 2 hour elective Of course there are pitfalls to this in that we would need more teachers but how many more? It is something that could/should be investigated. And maybe then we could offer electives that all students should take that could align to themes being taught in each grade and of course all students should have a technology class. If we become one of the empowerment schools then what are we doing with all the extra money we will have? Couldn't it be used to reduce class size right here?
Just wanted to share thoughts.

W Brown said...

I have spoken with several teachers here at QHST around the possiblity of reducing class size in house? Can this be done on a community level? Will the DOE see empty seats in our classrooms and stuff more students into our building if we attempt this?

Where are we going to fit all these classes? Space is an issue!!!

Montessorri could possibly try this during the last two hours of the day next year!!!

The reality is we need a binding law...legislation has to change...if they can do it in FLorida We surely can do it here...

Ms. Feliciano said...

In Freire, Eric has discussed with the programmers the possibility of teaching smaller classes in lieu of electives (at least that's what he told us). Will this in fact happen in September? Who knows, but most of my fellow Freirians would love to see our classes shrink... it's so frustrating trying to facilitate small group activities with classes of 34; most of these activites were designed for classes of no more than 20-25. The result? A group activity that should take no more than one class period is often completed in a week, when you consider that, at least in my classes, having students work in small groups means having to listen to 9 presentations! (Think of how much more we can accomplish if that number was cut to 5 or 6!)

I question whether the issue of reducing class size at QHST has been discussed in the leadership meetings. Does the administration consider this a valid issue or is it seen as yet another thing that we, the staff, will just have to live with?

Ms. Mayo said...

When I saw an article in Newsday, a week or two ago, with high school scores, it got me riled on several levels. First, the poverty level and how insane it is that the federal government thinks that NCLB legislation is realistic. Yes, all children can learn, but how anyone could expect the schools to equalize all of the problems in an unequal world is ridiculous. Second, amount of money spent per pupil (which, of course, ties into the whole equity issue). And then came the class size. There are many people, some of whom I hold in high regard, that say that small schools are more important than small classes. Yes, small schools can help the situation. However, smaller classes in small schools would be even better. NCTE has always argued for smaller classes, and any teacher who assigns a lot of writing knows what a difference that would make.

Some of the class size info (most were in the low 20s) for Long Island can be found at:,0,7255742.htmlstory