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

I am not as familiar as some with what has been proposed if the levy
fails...or even if it succeeds. However, my understanding is that one of
the practices that is threatened is the Team approach used in the Junior
High. It was put into practice after my children went through the junior
high, but I understand that the junior high students are grouped into
"teams" with common teachers, although they don't necessarily all have the
same class schedules. The teachers then coordinate lessons and also have an
opportunity to discuss the progress of individual students. This approach
was designed to keep students from getting "lost" during that critical
junior high period--to act as a bridge between the elementary classroom
system of "one teacher all day" to the high school system of different
teachers in every class.

This particular practice doesn't fall into any of the three categories
discussed here: family and home environment, teacher expertise, class size.
Or does it? The opportunity for a team of teachers to work with a team of
students means that a student with a less supportive home situation is more
likely to be identified as someone needing assistance--less likely to fall
through the cracks. Teachers who are given time during the week to meet
with other teachers and coordinate lessons, discuss students, etc. are more
likely to use their expertise to the maximum advantage. Class size is less
important, perhaps, if teachers can go into their classrooms having had the
opportunity to talk with other teachers about the needs of individual
students, brainstorm about ways to work with a given group of students,
share what works and doesn't work.

Can we afford to allow junior high teachers to continue to teach one less
class (or whatever the reduction in class load is) so that they can spend
the time strategizing so that they can more effective in the classes they
do teach, and reach students who otherwise might be at risk? This is the
question that is before us. 

Lois Melina
> From: Michael Cantrell <>
> To: Gerald Weitz <>
> Cc:;;;;;
> Subject: Re: Three answers to questions posed to Dr. Bob West
> Date: Wednesday, April 03, 2002 11:35 AM
> A short note on the percentages:  Its interesting to see this figure from
> the study--that the "Home and Family" variable was found to account for
> 49% of the effect on student performance.  Its not surprising, and
> obviously an extremely important variable for every kid.  And its one
> families, neighbors, and whole towns need to work on together.  Yet its
> one that's very hard to address within the context of the public school
> system.  That leaves the other 51% that we can address.  So for the
> we can address relatively directly, 16% (=8%/51%) of the variation is due
> to classroom size.  When there's such strong evidence for both of these
> variables being important (teacher expertise and classroom size), it
> remains essential for us to improve them both.
> Mac Cantrell
> On Mon, 1 Apr 2002, Gerald Weitz wrote:
> > 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
> > entitled "What Matters Most: Teaching and America's Future", refers to
> > 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
> > 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
> > variables, Teacher Expertise Variables, and Class Size.
> >
> > The most significant was Home and Family, accounting for 49% of the
> > (parents education, income level, language background and geographical
> > location).  The next greatest factor was Teacher Expertise, accounting
> > 43% of the affect,as measured by teacher scores on licensure exams,
> > earned and experience in the classroom.  Class size accounted for 8% of
> > 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
> > very important.
> >
> > 2) "Are there studies that demonstrate how the number of instructional
> > hours or days affect student performance?"   Yes. ...In general, the
> > engaged time spent by students learning and practicing academic or
> > skill areas, the better their performance on assessments that measure
> > skills.  Students in other nations with which we are compared that
> > school for more days generally do better on the International
> > and Science Studies.
> >
> > There may be many factors besides the number of days.... It is self
> > 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. 
> > are too many variables to have a one size fits all class size.  One has
> > consider not only class size but teacher-student ratio.  The number of
> > students in a group of learners is a relatively discrete thing.  But
> > 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
> > or more teacher affecting outcomes, and there may be aides or team
> > 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
> > 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
> > itself to all area schools doing exceptionally well.  Over 50% of the
> > nations' highest performing public school districts are in college
> > 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
> > to do with outcomes (8% of the affect). The district enjoys an
> > 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
> > supplies to the classroom, summer reading and math programs hostage
> > of classroom size.  Classroom size must be determined by Bob West's
> > suggested  variables.   Thanks Jerry
> >

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