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Re: Class size

The question I pose deals with the present approach of reductions across the district rather than cutting where the effect would be minimal assuming the levy passes. Generally the research  that I have reviewed ( I am not an expert) talks about the need to keep the class size low during the first years. This is where the affect is the greatest.  The problem that must be solved is  the pressing need for technical-professional education rather the predominance of college tracking.  My experience (Being an exchange student in Germany and hosting 17 exchange students), traveling in a number of different countries, Chairing the School-to-Work committee, working with the Albertson's foundation and the Federal Government on Pro-Tech throughout the state,  reveals that MSD has not kept pace and  effectively has rejected this form of education. (Call Don Eshelby (208-334-3216) for complete information about the other public school systems in Idaho that do not have a white collar bias.) 

 I had the opportunity this summer to interview the Editor of the Chinese National English-Language Newspaper(XinHau).  The hot topic is Pro-Tech.   Of course this applies to the urban areas.  Rural China is much different.  However 65% of their high school grads are going to college in the major cities.  Urban =25% and is going up.  Presently, their colleges are doubling in student population every three years.  The costs are solely borne by the student.  They have banks at every University.  Interesting for a communist country which is on an accelerated rate of capitalism and basic freedoms.  America now relies on foreign immigration for our technical work force.  How many of our own youth will have to be left behind economically because our public system refuses to change its approach and emphasis?

We talk about equality and simply do not practice the concept in the application of education.  When one reviews the Pullman numbers, they have not forgotten this  form of education.  Hence, if small class size is not used wisely, other segments of the student population are compromised.  Recall that this distinct had about $500,000 spent on it to make Votech happen. Plus a wide variety of community folks dedicated themselves to have this change occur.  We had focus groups,  town hall meetings, and were on public Television.  This district was recognized as the most forward thinking district in the state.  It was honored and recognized by the IEA, etc. Further, the district was given the opportunity to enter into a partnership with the National Guard for a skills center.

Think of this concept;  dual enrollment would free up assets at the high school. For example, I worked with an extremely bright student that just dropped out. This student would have benefited from the opportunity of dual enrollment. Some of the drops of enrollment happen due to this issue.  Pullman will tell you that they gain enrollment from the privates due  to dual enrollment.  A recent Daily News article talked about Idaho having the second largest increase in idle teenagers.  The article goes  talks about our lack of vocational education.  It discussed the plight of the alternative student.  MSD Strategic Planning and present discussions do not address either of these.  I wonder, if voting on a  levy increase will cause just more of the same.

There are over 900 students that do not avail themselves of our system.  I think that this question  must be brought forward and changes must be instituted. Recall that the levy is a permanent levy.  This is rarely used in the state.  I believe there are 3 others districts.  Call Sue Driskill for the specifics.  I believe that the community has been left out of decisions since 1992.  It starts showing up in the enrollment declines and the decrease in academic performance. For example, during Alethia Fasolino's tenure, our district average of 8 to a height of 12 National Merit Semifinalists.  L:ast four years average was four.  I believe the district has forgotten that we own the district, it is ours and that not all the expertise is held by the inside educator.  It is time to demand more and also to fund it properly.  Pullman is considered one of the 100 best public school districts in the nation.  We have the advantage since we are not held down by as many regulations and have more local control (in theory).  We could be the best in the nation.                

I resigned from the Board because there had to be changes made and it was not possible to be on the Board and make it happen.  I am a devoted advocate of public education, however I can not stand up blindly and pat this district on the back for not being willing to be the best and for not educationing all students with equality and equally.  This district is noted for needless internal conflict.  Example, as  freshman I was trust into a 9 month labor dispute.  Long term and fair labor contracts would have eliminated this. Nobody is talking about this.  Another example about how this district reacts, when I went to the classroom, I found teachers and their students in overheated classrooms 110 +.  Since my orientation is in real time, I made a considerable effort to change those conditions.  What most do not know, was the complete hostility that ensued.  A benign project, yet everything was a fight..  Hence, it will have to be the CQE with devoted folks to be the vanguard for change.  Just a few insights. Thanks for reading this.  Jerry       

At 12:51 PM 04/03/2002 -0800, John Davis wrote:
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 ‘teacher’.

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.


John Davis

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