Ah, perhaps a bit of clarification regarding Weitz’s commentary regarding
information provided by Bob West—specifically regarding class size.
There actually is a significant body of research that has been conducted on
class size which demonstrates a positive effect upon student achievement in
classes around 20. Most notably is the meta-analysis studies by Smith &
Glass (1978), followed with similar investigations by Robinson & Wittebols
(1986), and Slavin (1989). A more recent study by Wenglinsky (1997)
examining data from over 180 school districts across the US supports
conclusions mentioned above. In addition, several large-scale longitudinal
studies in the states of Indiana & Tennessee (Prime Time, 1984, STAR, 1985,
and Project Challenge (1990) also provide significant evidence supporting
small class size correlated with positive student achievement.
With that said (and as with all research), there are certainly
investigations which do not support the aforementioned studies. In most
cases the samples were small, extraneous variables were not controlled, and
the conclusions were invariably tied to ‘significant extra costs are not
worth the increases in achievement’. My and the rest of my community’s
children are certainly worth the $8-$10 or even $50 more per month to
maintain a quality educational environment.
Here is a nice overview of the research:
What is also ignored is the input from the professionals: the teachers who
manage both small and large classrooms. Through the years I have heard
comments from community patrons, legislators, business-persons, and parents
suggesting that, based on their 1-hour visits, that having a large classroom
is not really a problem. Which is the same as saying, upon concluding a
1-hour visit to a hospital ER during a quiet period, that there really are
not very many people who require emergency services so why spend the money?
Just think for a minute about being confronted with the daunting task of
managing the educational, social, emotional, and psychological well-being of
20, much less 30 or 35 students for a 7-8 hour block of time; and, not have
the monies to really be able to do what you could do (educationally), AND be
paid a rather small salary to do this. Now do this every day. And spend
time on the weekends and holidays and summers to ‘upgrade’ professional
skills and knowledge. You are just beginning to understand the concept of
Intuitively, you realize that smaller class = higher quality environment
yielding a more positive overall experience—that being achievement, to say
the least. All of this of course assumes that you have a qualified,
knowledgeable, caring person as the teacher—that is a given. Does that mean
that with the class of 20 you will still have some people who do not achieve
as they could or should? Of course. So listen to what your professional
educators (Moscow teachers) say—they know very well what they are talking
about. Do you rely on advice from your doctor, lawyer, dentist,
fire-persons, police electrician, and plumber (I left out a lot—not
intended)? Absolutely—or, we get a second opinion. . . right?
With all that has been presented, please remember the mandate in the US:
provide a free, equal, and non-discriminatory educational
environment/experience for all children (through about 16 depending on the
state) regardless of race, color, creed, ethics, religion, socioeconomic
status, or physical/emotional/cognitive disability. It is truly amazing
what we do in the US—if in doubt, go to most any public school in most any
other country and see if they do exactly the same. . .
With all that is being decided upon for the upcoming levy (and well into the
future) we need to be careful about obtaining and presenting information.
In this case, it is more than just reasonable to support the concept of
maintaining smaller class size—that is a variable we can control and have
done so quite well thus far in Moscow.
PASS THE LEVY!!!
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