class size question

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Aliceacc, Sep 25, 2009.

  1. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Sep 25, 2009

    I'm most definitely the wrong person to be asking this, since our class sizes are typically in the high 30's to mid 40's.

    But is there any solid evidence you're aware of-- not anectdotal, but solid evidence-- that indicates that smaller class sizes improve student performance? Or that larger class sizes are detrimental to student perfonance? I'm talking about primary classes here, K-2 or 3.
     
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  3. MelissainGA

    MelissainGA Groupie

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    Sep 25, 2009

    I know from personal experience when I had classes of 16 to 18 my students scored much higher on state assessments than the students that I have had in classrooms of 21-24+. This would be to do with students from K-4 level.
     
  4. goopp

    goopp Devotee

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    Sep 25, 2009

  5. tracykaliski

    tracykaliski Connoisseur

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    Sep 25, 2009

    Thanks for the link Goopp. I'm having this discussion with my director right now.

    I'm interested to see other people's responses to this.
     
  6. SpecialPreskoo

    SpecialPreskoo Moderator

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    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/scotland/article6826859.ece I found that saying that smaller class size does NOT mean improved performances...

    http://www.premier.gov.on.ca/news/event.php?ItemID=5070&Lang=EN That one reports improvement...

    http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPorta...&ERICExtSearch_SearchType_0=no&accno=EJ582485 reports improvement. I don't know how you could get the full article.

    http://www.psych.armstrong.edu/faculty/Scott/research/rrp/class_size.pdf research in a pdf file... I didn't see what the results were.

    http://www.fapeonline.org/class-size-smaller-classes-can-improve-student-performance.htm another yes improvement.

    http://www.springerlink.com/content/0r6356047g45lx02/ extended study...

    That should keep you busy reading. :)
     
  7. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Sep 25, 2009

    The trick, though, is distinguishing the effect of class size alone from everything else that changes, or could, when class size drops.
     
  8. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    The Tennessee Star project indicates that smaller classes sizes are better but the problem is that if you go and look at other research, you will find contradictions in all of them including this one. Some have criticized these particular interpretations. Research is like that in general. I found at least one other major large scale study that contradicted this one. I was originally looking up information about the impact of teacher aides in the classroom on student achievement when I came across these studies.
     
  9. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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  10. rachaelski

    rachaelski Habitué

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    Sep 25, 2009

    I heard a professor out of Vanderbilt (sp.), which is one of the top schools for education, argue that smaller class size does not equate success. His focus may have been middle school.
     
  11. rachaelski

    rachaelski Habitué

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    He was doing ongoing research on it...BTW
     
  12. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Sep 26, 2009

    Just FYI-- this has to do with my role as mommy, not teacher.

    The parents in my daughter's 1st grade class are organizing to "fight" the large class size--it's near 30 this year after having 2 much smaller K classes last year. They're asking everyone to attend a meeting this week. (There are also 2 aides in the room, so the adult:kid ratio is about 3:1)

    My personal experience is all with older kids, where I'm perfectly OK with a class of 30. I tend to think that a lot has to do with the teacher and his or her ability to control the class, along with the administration's willingness to back a teacher.

    So my personal experience over the past 24 years in the classroom is that larger class size doesn't seem to determine academic success. I think that even my largest classes, those with 40-45 kids in them, were successful and that the kids learned all they should have.

    As a result, I'm probably not going to be the most vocal one at the meeting, if I even choose to attend. (Besides, any administrator who knows where I work could easily say: "It's OK for your students, but not your child???")

    But if the evidence shows that the results are different for primary grades, then I can go and particpate with a clear conscience.
     
  13. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Sep 26, 2009

    I agree, and that's a big part of the problem.

    Plus, I would be absolutely comfortable with the large class size had they given it to the 1st grade teacher my other 2 kids had. The current teacher doesn't have the strongest reputation in the building. We all know that reputation doesn't always mean anything, yet sometimes it does. (And, no, I haven't met her. I had my own back-to-school night the same night the elementary school did, and Peter went to theirs. He said she seemed "nice and enthusiastic" but I tend to have the better teacher radar.)
     
  14. goopp

    goopp Devotee

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    Sep 26, 2009

    I realize that there are 2 aides in the room with this large class size, but do you know how much help they really are? There are some super aides in our school, and then there are 1 or 2 who wouldn't really be much help on the learning side. They are great to help with behavior, but teachers need more than that.

    I know that this year, I have 24 4th graders as opposed to the 20 I had last year. It's unbelievable how much harder it is to deal with 4 more students. Giving 20 kids individualized instruction at times was hard...getting to 24 writing conferences every week is exhausting. It can be done, I do it every time, but it takes a lot out of you. I really believe that giving students more one on one time is important when they are having a hard time grasping a skill or concept, and every time more kids are added to a classroom, that just seems to be more group time for students and teachers instead of the individual attention they need, especially in 1st grade.
     
  15. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Sep 26, 2009

    Nope. That's my point-- I really don't know what's going on. And I'm concerned... that's why I asked for the reseach. I've never had an aide, and I've never been in a class that had one. I have no idea what they do aside from what I've read on this forum.

    I'm planning to look at the studies, and in the meantime I just forwarded it to the mom (a lawyer as it turns out) who is organizing the meeting.

    But I need solid evidence, not anecdotal. For every "In my class" story out there, there's a study which disproves it. I really AM trying to do what's best for my daughter. My gut tells me that the RIGHT teacher and the RIGHT aides could make this work... that the one-on-one demands you mention could be handled by the right aide. I know that I was never in a class smaller than 50 until I hit high school, (and, no, there were no aides back then) and I'm very happy with the education I received. One of my elementary school classmates is a Bishop, several are doctors and lawyers, and there are a bunch of teachers, so I'm confident that large classes CAN result in a good education. But that's certainly not scientific, and won't help us as a group do what's right for our kids, so I'm keeping my opinions out of it.

    Did it take a lot out of the teachers? I imagine so. But to be brutally honest, that's not my concern. (Remember, I'm the mommy here, not the teacher.)

    My ONLY concern is finding a WORKABLE solution that will get my daughter the best possible education. If the district were to make 2 classes next year, they would have to find an additional $40,000 or so in the budget. And the moms organizing this have several (2 I think) other schools on board, with classes in the same ballpark numbers. So now we're talking about finding another $120,000 (if they hire brand new, just out of college teachers). I have no idea where they would find that money. So if we're going to make the case for smaller class sizes, it's got to be based on scientific evidence, not on arguments about how tired the teachers are or on stories that can be easily refuted. I'ts got to be something undeniable, that proves that they're not providing the best possible education for these kids.
     
  16. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Sep 26, 2009

    I have 19 kids this year- it makes a vast difference when I have a class this size in how often I confer with them in reading, discuss their books and reading, 'get to them'...I have conferred with each child in my class several times already in reading (14th day of school yesterday), have a good handle on their developmental level in reading, have pulled small groups of math strugglers to work on more concrete understanding of concepts covered so far and have several writing samples collected and 'assessed' so far. By early next week I'll have pinpointed a developmental level of each student's spelling abilities and will be able to plan my spelling in order to individualize instruction. Don't think I'd have all this done already in a class of 30 (although I would get an aide with that many:mellow:). I do think it's important in the early grades for kids to feel 'connected' to their teacher and to each other- with 30 kids, that bond is harder to forge (although not impossible)...I just think some kids in the early years could more easily 'fall through the cracks' in some classrooms where class size was LARGE.
     
  17. Hoot Owl

    Hoot Owl Aficionado

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    Sep 26, 2009

    Alice, is your daughter in public school? If she's in public school the State pays X number of dollars per child. The money is there for those kids and the district is hoarding it or has allocated it elsewhere.
     
  18. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Yes she is.

    But with the cutbacks in state aid, the Superintendent decreed that no class could contain fewer than 16 kids. So having a school with 30 or 31 kids in 1st grade is the problem.

    And the monies not given by the state are made up by local taxes. We don't get to vote for the salary part of the budget, since it's based on union agreements. The school budget votes only determine things like capital improvements to the schools, busses, and things of that nature. So the Superintendent has to juggle the demands of 7 elementary schools, one middle school and a high school against a limited amount of money. (Of course, they could always cut a few administrators and save some money. But that's not going to happen.)
     
  19. JaimeMarie

    JaimeMarie Moderator

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    Sep 26, 2009

    I would hope that the two aides are helpful. Are they cert. teachers? A lot of times in our district out aides are cert. teachers trying to get their foot in the door. I would want to find all this out before having attending the meeting. If the class is run correctly, when she breaks them into reading groups, and small math groups, there are three teachers to help so each teacher would work with two groups of five.
     
  20. Hoot Owl

    Hoot Owl Aficionado

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    So he's juggling demands between 7 elementary schools? The one that squeaks the loudest will be oiled.

    I guess I sound greedly, but I'd want the very best for my child. Teachers can be effective with 30 - 40 kids, but some are going to fall between the cracks, hence kids graduating fron H.S. unable to read. When my daughter was in elementary school she was extremely shy and would never have been noticed in a big class. Elementary school is so different from H.S., those little kids develope strong bonds with their teachers, or I think they should.

    I'd probably go to the meeting just as a warm body showing support.
     
  21. Hoot Owl

    Hoot Owl Aficionado

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    This would be over crowding in my room. Our special ed teacher has three aides in her room and there's about 9 kids, it's full.
     
  22. JaimeMarie

    JaimeMarie Moderator

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    I have two aides in my room and I have the smallest K classroom in my school. It works out fine for me. But I only have 17 kids. So I guess it depends on the size of the classroom.
     
  23. tracykaliski

    tracykaliski Connoisseur

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    Alice, I haven't read most of this but the one comment that caught my attention is where you say your classes have 30-40 and you're advocating for smaller classes for your first grader.

    I think there's a huge difference between high school classes and classes for younger children. High schoolers are in a different developmental phase, and young children are not even in the stage of being ready for abstraction. That doesn't happen until kids are around 7.

    If your daughter did well last year with a smaller group and isn't doing so well this year, don't be afraid to stand up for her. You teach high school which is a completely different animal from early elementary school.

    My school has 50 1st through 3rd graders, and we have 4 teachers at that level. That's a ratio of 1:12.
     
  24. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Tracy, I agree that I'm totally out of my element. That's why I haven't been a huge help to the moms organizing this-- all my experience has been in a Catholic high school, not a public elementary school-- and it runs counter to what they're trying to do.

    And my daughter had a very nice year last year, but I don't think I would call it "good." She left Kindergarten not being able to sound a word out, and she's still struggling with it. (How much of that is her and how much was the brand new LTS-turned full year teacher, I have no idea.) The teacher was a total sweetheart through all our calamities, but I'm not sure that Kira received the education that her siblings did with another more experienced teacher.
     
  25. goopp

    goopp Devotee

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    Sep 26, 2009

    I do agree that much of this whole debate rests on how good the teacher and the aides are, but there is not a lot you can do about that...and at this point, you may not know.

    As to the money for teachers, I know that here in GA the state raised the maximum class sizes this year due to budget concerns. There are ways around it with a creative principal, but I'd guess that having higher class sizes will be the norm in most places until the economy gets better.

    Read the research that we've sent you...look at the differing views and see which ones seem to have been conducted correctly. For most research, there is an opposing research study done. All you can do is study to find out which is predominate and which research studies seem to have been conducted best.

    Good luck! This will be a hard fight for someone. Stay on the fringes as much as possible, while still helping. You have other things to stress about, although your child's education is a huge issue. I hope everything works out for the best, if not, you will just have to keep working with her at home to make sure she is getting the best education possible.:)
     
  26. SSA

    SSA Companion

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    Sep 27, 2009

    I know of at least one superintendent who said that when it came to class size reduction he knew that it was popular amongst parents, but the only thing that anyone was certain about was that it was expensive. In the late 90s when a lot of states were flush with cash they spending Billions of dollars funding class size reduction programs to bring 30 student classrooms down to <20.

    The Tennessee Star project was heavily used as an argument that it would improve student performance, but alas many states aren't seeing the trickle upwards effects that elementary school class size was supposed to accomplish. I think part of the problem is that the benefits of reforms in K-3 aren't lasting if little or nothing changes in middle school or HS.
     
  27. missamie

    missamie Rookie

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    Sep 27, 2009

    When I did research on this back in the late 90's for a master's project, the optimal number from a study done in Kentucky was 12 and it was done in the elementary years. My school district had a grant from about 93-2004 for at-risk low income schools - my whole inner city district to have 17-1 ratios K-3 only.

    I haven't done any research on this lately.

    I now teach at a private school where our teacher-student ratio's are capped at 14.
     

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