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RE: Three answers to questions posed to Dr. Bob West

Greetings Jerry & all,

This is very interesting information. It appears that classroom size is a key element in quality education, demonstrated in the studies cited in your post.  That confirms research surveyed by the CQE.

Regarding your other points, unfortunately we as voters cannot go home with each child every night to ensure a quality home environment. This is a long term sociological issue that may require generations of education.  

You might be interested that CQE found several studies showing that good schools compensate for problems inflicted on children by poor quality home environments. As citizens we can impact outcomes for our children by assuring their schools are top notch!

Fortunately, we have outstanding teacher expertise is already.  Many of our teachers have their Master's Degrees and I understand there are several with PhD's. I suspect having the University in such close proximity is a major advantage to Moscow educators and ultimately to our children.

That leaves classroom size. We as voters can directly influence classroom size by voting in favor of the levy on April 23rd.


Tim Kinkeade

-----Original Message-----
From: Gerald Weitz []
Sent: Monday, April 01, 2002 9:33 PM
Subject: Three answers to questions posed to Dr. Bob West

I asked Dr. West to present documentation on three questions.

1) "How does teacher quality affect student performance?" Answer:  The National Commission on Teaching and America's Future (supported by the Rockefeller Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation), in a 1996 publication entitled "What Matters Most: Teaching and America's Future", refers to an oft quoted study by R.F. Ferguson, appearing in the Harvard Journal Of Legislation, 28(Summer, 1991), pp.465-498.  The reported study is of the factors that affect student performance in 900 school districts in the western U.S., when student performance in reading and mathematics, in grades 1-11, was factor analyzed for variables affecting student achievement.  There were three main factors identified:  Home and Family variables, Teacher Expertise Variables, and Class Size.

The most significant was Home and Family, accounting for 49% of the affect (parents education, income level, language background and geographical location).  The next greatest factor was Teacher Expertise, accounting for 43% of the affect,as measured by teacher scores on licensure exams, degrees earned and experience in the classroom.  Class size accounted for 8% of the affect.

Among the things that school districts can control, the affect of class size, therefore, has to be viewed in conjunction with other more significant factors such as teacher expertise.  Taken together, they are very important.

2) "Are there studies that demonstrate how the number of instructional hours or days affect student performance?"   Yes. ...In general, the more engaged time spent by students learning and practicing academic or other skill areas, the better their performance on assessments that measure those skills.  Students in other nations with which we are compared that attend school for more days generally do better on the International Mathematics and Science Studies.

There may be many factors besides the number of days.... It is self evident that the more one practices the application of knowledge and skills the better one will probably score  on tests measuring the performance of
the skills.

3. "Are there studies that show "ideal" class size?"  Not really. There are too many variables to have a one size fits all class size.  One has to consider not only class size but teacher-student ratio.  The number of students in a group of learners is a relatively discrete thing.  But other factors have great affect on the teaching and learning outcomes of any given group.  The skill of the teacher is paramount.  And, there may be one or more teacher affecting outcomes, and there may be aides or team teaching arrangements within a given group.  There may be a mix of students within a group that vary a lot in terms of ability and disability, language and culture (American English or other), and as we say above, home and family factors .  ..and then a lot depends on  age.

These lead to my (Weitz's) observations; 1) Moscow enjoys a tremendous demographic situation which according to experts (School Watch)  would lend itself to all area schools doing exceptionally well.  Over 50% of the nations' highest performing public school districts are in college towns. 2) Time or number of instructional days has a positive affect if not carried to an extreme. 167 rather than 180 instructional days is a disservice to students and many families.  3) Classroom size has the least to do with outcomes (8% of the affect). The district enjoys an extremely competent group of teachers and a great Home and Family variable. 

Since there will never be enough money, the district must not hold such programs as Votech, the alternative HS program, extracurricular programs, supplies to the classroom, summer reading and math programs hostage because of classroom size.  Classroom size must be determined by Bob West's suggested  variables.   Thanks Jerry

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