16 November 2005

Heresy, Indeed

I subscribe to Education Week, which is, unfortunately, rather unfriendly in terms of its on-line content. However, if what I'm about to comment upon intrigues you, jump the hurdles and read the article: Increase Class Size---And Pay Teachers More.

Saul Cooperman wrote a commentary piece for the publication with the idea that if you reduce the number of teachers needed (by increasing class size), then there will be more money to pay them, as they will split the money allotted for other staff. Because the studies regarding the impact of class size on student achievement don't clearly support the "smaller is better" camp, why continue to pour educational dollars in that direction?

It is true that more teachers means more money spent on equipping classrooms (which have to be heated, cleaned, etc.). More teachers means that more funds will go towards benefit packages. As I think back on my career, I would also have to agree that I didn't teach a room of 35 kids much differently than a room of 20.

But here is where Mr. Cooperman misses the boat: what happens outside of the classroom. Every extra student means extra time assessing their progress. It means more time to set up labs/activities. Would an additional $25K/year be enough compensation for a secondary teacher to have 180 kids a day (or 35 for an elementary teacher)? Would it also mean that you would attract a better pool of applicants---thus exposing more kids to better teachers?

Maybe. It just seems like this solution is a little too simplistic...and very little in this profession is ever so simple.

1 comment:

Rob said...

Well, all I know is that my first grade class had 31 kids and, by the end of the year, every single kid could read. I know this because the teacher insisted on doing it the old-timey way: every kid was called on to stand up and read from the current story in turn until we finished the story. If a kid had a problem with a word, then we stopped and wrote the word on the board and sounded it out and so on.

I don't know what the priorities are these days, but back in 1963, reading was pretty much the main priority of first grade. Sure, we did arithmetic and we wrote in our Big Chief notebooks and we colored inside the lines, but reading seemed to be the number one priority.

Peer pressure worked quite well as a motivator (you didn't want to stand up in front of everybody and not be able to read your part), but I imagine that sort of thing is out of fashion now, as it's possible that someone's feelings might be momentarily hurt - a fate much worse than making it to fourth grade without being able to read.