Of course class sizes matter

  • Follow Letters

As a retired teacher, I read with interest your March 21 story on Richmond County’s decision to increase class sizes for 2012-13. I was particularly drawn to the quote by Eric Hanushek, a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He said, “There’s very little evidence that the large class sizes are going to have much, if any, effect on achievement, but it has a lot of fiscal consequences.”

I never was a senior fellow at Stanford, but I did spend 30 years in the classrooms of four Georgia public school systems. Most in Mr. Hanushek’s ivory tower depend heavily on data to make their judgments about educational results, and that is a sound practice. However, the data may not show the practical, real-life experiences of teachers like me.

I wholeheartedly agree with the Richmond County Board of Education’s Barbara Pulliam that class size does affect student achievement. My strengths were organization and classroom management, and I often struggled to the point of embarrassment with larger classes. The more kids in a classroom, the bigger audience they have other than the teacher. Twenty-eight students in a middle-school classroom are unlikely to achieve over the long term at the rate of a classroom of 23. There are just more behavior distractions for the students and the teacher.

School funding challenges are real, but as long as the primary answer continues to be adding students to classrooms, regardless of the quality of the teachers, expect achievement to decline.

When will it stop? Hanushek’s logic is if 35 in a high-school classroom is OK now, why not 40 next year, and 45 the next? His comment reinforces the idea that schools are merely a baby-sitting service or, perhaps more aptly, a holding pen at a cattle sale. You only need one cowboy.

Gene Walker

Thomson

Comments (7) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
pearlthesquirrel
786
Points
pearlthesquirrel 03/23/12 - 08:52 am
1
0
G.W. has stated 100% factual
Unpublished

G.W. has stated 100% factual and empirical evidence in his letter. What more can I say? (Go back to one of my comment from last week or the week before and find my comments that bolster G.W.'s viewpoints).

fiveobike1
65
Points
fiveobike1 03/23/12 - 09:35 am
3
0
Thats the problem with our

Thats the problem with our educational system now, people who have very little or no actual classroom experience making these decisions based on numbers and statistics. Statistics can tell a person whatever they want to hear, based on who they get them from or the pool in which they are taken, much like the political polls... The fat needs to be trimmed from the top, 6 figure salaries and countless "assitant" superintendents should be cut prior to any teacher losing their job, or classroom room increase.

crkgrdn
2287
Points
crkgrdn 03/23/12 - 09:42 am
0
0
Yes, and because roses smell

Yes, and because roses smell better than cabbage, we should make a soup from them.

There are countless variables involved in the character of a classroom, and even more when we are talking about the American classroom at the middle and high school.

I have seen classrooms in the Orient and in Europe that had 40 or more students and there was order and high achievement. What makes classroom management difficult for American teachers is the culture. We like to offer the old excuse that the bad behavior is driven by hormonal influences. No, it is the permissive cultural. Going to school in America in the 50s and 60s my classroom sizes were large, but so were expectations about how to conduct yourself.

fiveobike1
65
Points
fiveobike1 03/23/12 - 10:00 am
1
0
you hit it on the head there,

you hit it on the head there, it is our culture.... the orient and europe expect more and put up with less from their children, punishment for bad behaviour is harsh and corpral.. we as a society have nurtured our kids into these zombies who expecct everything handed to them.. because of this with higher numbers in the classroom means less time educating and more time correcting bad behaviour... In the 50's and 60's we again expected more from our children and the ever looming threat of the "board of education" the paddle, was looming over every young minds head. In 50's and 60's the culture was quit different than it is now, today we have parents who want to be their kids friend and not a parent figure.....

dichotomy
32190
Points
dichotomy 03/23/12 - 10:55 am
1
1
"student achievement" has

"student achievement" has been nose diving even when we had smaller class sizes. We threw tons of money at public education, reduced class sizes, and hired more overpaid, yet incompetent, teachers. And what did we get.........a steadily declining level of education.

In the 60s, every classroom I was in had 30 to 35 students. Some classes had 40. And we were crowded up in old school buildings with asbestos insulation on exposed water pipes and walls painted with lead based paints. I venture to say that people who graduated high school back then were better educated, particularly in the fundamentals of reading, writing, arithmetic, history, and geography, as most college students are today. Of course I do admit that back then there were not many people who wanted to pursue a degree in Contemplating Your Naval and some of the similarly silly liberal arts degrees they offer today in order to give kids an easy route to avoid going to work and getting off of mama and daddy's payroll.

And when we do give our local BOE more money, what do they do? Build shiny new buildings. They've done nothing, not one initiative, not one policy, not one action to improve education level, improve discipline, or to fire non-performing teachers. All they are good for is building new schools, raising our taxes when they want to give teachers a pay raise, and ensuring that we keep a black administrator......at all costs......even one that can no longer perform his duties. And the administrators.....all they are good for is getting their pay raised and justifying more subordinate administrative positions so they can hire people to do THEIR jobs.

The school system itself, the administrators, the teachers, and the BOE, based on their past and present performance, are suffering the self-inflicted wound of being perceived as "merely a baby-sitting service or, perhaps more aptly, a holding pen at a cattle sale". Our school systems could rightly be compared to Solyndra. We gave them vast amounts of money and they built a shiny new building and then went bankrupt while producing unmarketable products at a non-viable economic cost.

If ANYBODY thinks that the BOE and the administrators are concerned with "education" then you should ask yourself "why hasn't there been any policy changes?". Why hasn't there been any new policies for discipline? Why hasn't there been any policy changes for teacher and administrator evaluation? Why aren't there any concrete standards that a student must attain before they are passed on up the line totally unequipped for the next grade.....if the next grade had any standards? Pouring more money into, and hiring more teachers to perpetuate, the same old failed school system is not the answer.

Believe me Gene, class size is the least of our problems in the Richmond County school system.

I

allhans
23562
Points
allhans 03/23/12 - 02:26 pm
1
0
To give kids an education you

To give kids an education you separate out the troublemakers. A Classroom with 30 good students will learn much better than a class with 25 good and 5 troublemakers.
Stop with this holding kids back so others can keep up, make the placements in accordance with the ability and desire of each
child.

crackertroy
540
Points
crackertroy 03/23/12 - 02:57 pm
1
0
Whatever the reason, class
Unpublished

Whatever the reason, class sizes now does matter. Once a high school class, especially 9th graders gets over 23 they get very hard to manage.

KSL
126987
Points
KSL 03/23/12 - 03:47 pm
1
0
Y'all beat me to it. We are

Y'all beat me to it. We are baby boomers. It was not unusual for classes to be over 30. The teachers managed without assistants. The difference was that it was known that bad behavior would be punished with certainty and quickness. Bad behavior was not tolerated.

museofsatie
586
Points
museofsatie 03/23/12 - 07:33 pm
0
0
I don't think you can put

I don't think you can put "the orient and europe"'s respective (and vastly varied) education systems together in the same sentence. There are so many differences.

Finland has been in the news a lot in recent years because of how good their education system is (or rather how good it's become since they did an overhaul of the whole thing starting in the 1970s). According to a Huffington Post article I read (which cites an article by Samuel E. Abrams), Finnish class sizes for first and second grades is around 19; grades 3-9 average around 21; and all science classes have a cap of 16 students. Also, corporal punishment, in all settings, has been banned in Finland for decades.

The system in Finland (and in other European countries) is so different from the successful systems in Asia (ROK and Shanghai and Hong Kong, China being three of the top), yet it's seen as just as effective.

Back to Top

Search Augusta jobs