What can I realistically do to advocate for smaller class sizes?

Discussion in 'General Education' started by miss-m, Aug 12, 2018.

  1. miss-m

    miss-m Devotee

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    I'm curious for some input on this because as much as I try to avoid politics (even though I actually enjoy civilized political conversation), this is something that I feel like I can't just sit by and passively accept. It's maybe only marginally political but I feel like I don't know enough to make even that call.

    My school district redrew boundary lines maybe 4 or 5 years ago -- before I got hired. Unfortunately this resulted in an issue at my school: we have way too many students, despite being within a mile of at least two other elementary schools. There are 29 classrooms in my building, and at least 5 of them (including mine) were not even really meant to be classrooms. They've been retrofitted to accommodate the nearly 800 students we have had enrolled the past few years. This year is supposedly going to be slightly better; we've stopped accepting transfers and babysitter permits, but for my grade it's actually worse so far. I have 27 first graders on my roster, and the other 4 first grade classes are sitting at 26 or 27 as well. Every other grade is only slightly smaller, averaging 22-25.

    I love my school and I have no intention of leaving, so in that sense this is something I have to just accept and do the best I can with the students I've been assigned. I understand that. But it's also causing enormous amounts of stress (I've been having stomach problems for the past week that I finally connected to stress after a dream last night about my roster increasing to 30).

    So my activist side is coming out and I'm wondering what, if anything, can I realistically do to take action on this? Not necessarily to change anything this year, but to hopefully help get some changes in motion for coming years? I'm not a member of the NEA at the moment partly because of the cost of membership and partly because they seem to be primarily focused on pay scales and due process. While I get that those are important, they're not at the top of my radar. Class sizes is a much more pressing issue to me and has been for the past few years; it's not fair to the students OR the teachers to put so many children in a failing school and then wonder WHY we're failing. My first year, 4th grade was averaging 32-34 per class. I was up and down between 23-26 my entire first year.

    I have at least 4 students in my class who are 4 blocks from another elementary school. But because of the boundary lines, they're bused to mine. I feel like I need to do SOMETHING, but I have no clue what I can even begin to do. I'm open to joining the union if there's any chance that would help (plus we lost our building NEA rep so we need a new person to do that), but what else can I do?
     
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  3. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Aug 13, 2018

    Getting parents involved would be important here. There’s lots of research on class size and student achievement. Sharing that with parents and like-minded colleagues could start a dialog. Then the issue should be brought to your school based planning committee, school board, etc.
     
  4. Janlee70

    Janlee70 Rookie

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    There are regulations regarding the amount of square footage required for each student in a classroom. Age plays a factor in this. When my son was in 6th grade parents presented this concern at the Board of Education meeting. There was not enough space in the classroom for each student and their desk. When presented with the facts and regulations another class was added to ease the overcrowding. This could be something to look at for your particular state.
     
  5. futuremathsprof

    futuremathsprof Phenom

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    Totally agree with you. That’s why at my school the maximum class size is set at 25 because of what the research studies suggest in terms of student achievement and retention.
     
  6. Missy

    Missy Aficionado

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    If you have an association, it could be raised as an issue at the next contract negotiations.
     
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  7. svassillion

    svassillion Companion

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    Sorry I don't have any further advice from what PPs have offered, but I can definitely empathize with you. 27 first graders is ridiculous. They're so young still and need so much help. We have a cap in K-1 of 25 students, but realistically I feel like student achievement gets compromised over 20. Do the other schools in your district have overflow or is there an imbalance between them?
     
  8. Ms.Holyoke

    Ms.Holyoke Connoisseur

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    I was able to log on to PowerSchool today to see my class list and two of my classes have 33 kids. I hope they rebalance it a bit because these class sizes are ridiculous. I think 27 first graders is way too much. :(
     
  9. miss-m

    miss-m Devotee

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    I'm up to 28 on my roster now as of yesterday (with only 1 who has yet to show up). Someone at the coffee shop this morning commented that it's great I can say that with a smile, and I told him I'm only smiling because if I don't I might cry. XD

    Some of the other schools in the district are similar, but most are much smaller. We are easily the largest elementary school in the district and our boundary line is just ridiculous. Thankfully(?) the acting superintendent was here yesterday (not sure what his role is now that the new superintendent has started; maybe assistant superintendent?) and the P, AP, and ICs were all telling him we have too many students. We don't even have enough supplies for all of them; we're supposed to have 2:1 iPads and I only have 11.

    Thankfully everyone in charge in the building is highly aware of our situation. All of us on the team at this point are in straight up survival mode and it's only day 3 of the school year. The IC told me today that it's ok to not worry about content yet, even though our pacing guide didn't leave wiggle room on math, but we're just not going to get to it all for a week or so. There's no way.

    In a Title 1, low income, high ESL school... we should have classes of 20 or below if we're going to get anywhere with achievement.
     
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  10. miss-m

    miss-m Devotee

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    That's so many! I'm so sorry. I hope (for both of us) that the class sizes get balanced out somehow!
     
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  11. futuremathsprof

    futuremathsprof Phenom

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    Yeah, tell me about it. Enrollment just increased all of a sudden at my private school and now my Calc 3 class has 33 students, my two AP Stats classes have 24 each, and my AP Calc BC class has 32... I was like: What. The. Hell?! All I can say is that I am glad I have three prep periods with one in between each class.

    My P is super understanding and was apologetic and said that he would have someone run all my copies for me this year to make it up for me, so that helps somewhat. I’m still a bit miffed, but at least he is incredibly supportive and said that he will speak with the families about student behavior if need be.

    Until now, our classes were not allowed to go past 25, but there were so many students who enrolled at the last second (I think like 20 or something) and they mostly tested as advanced.
     
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2018
  12. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    I feel that this is one of those topics that needs to be addressed systemically, like through political maneuverings. Have you looked into what it takes to get onto your school board or into some other political office that oversees education and/or education spending?
     
  13. TrademarkTer

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    Not that I'm keeping score or anything, but my public school has someone to run our copies for us if we want no matter how big our class sizes are. There is a lady who is paid as an aide who spends her whole day in the copy room for us. Not to mention my 5 classes this year are currently sitting at 14, 16, 16, 24, and 26 :whistle:

    Anyway, I feel like with advanced classes, behavior is not a major issue anyway. Not to mention, they should be better at independent work. I can't imagine that with elementary students though. We have a cap of 26 as well. My supervisor has mentioned if push ever came to shove and the caps had to be exceeded, she'd rather have 30 in an AP Calc and 20 in an Alg 1 than 25 in both because the lower students are the ones who need small classes the most.
     
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  14. Ms.Holyoke

    Ms.Holyoke Connoisseur

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    I'm really frustrated. My school apparently has the funds for new playgrounds and sports fields, but does not have the funds to buy supplies for teachers or kids or the funds to reduce class sizes.
     
  15. vickilyn

    vickilyn Multitudinous

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    Ms. Holyoke:
    "I'm really frustrated. My school apparently has the funds for new playgrounds and sports fields, but does not have the funds to buy supplies for teachers or kids or the funds to reduce class sizes."


    My personal take is that if it bothers you enough, become political, or support those who are making decisions that you feel support your views and needs. Parent involvement will only get you so far - it is always about enrollment and funding. Increases in enrollment increases revenue stream, and that is good for business, even if less than perfect for you. Never forget that education is a business.

    The entire school will benefit from that improved playground and equipment, which may well have been something that parents rallied for long before you were hired in the district. Maybe not, but if you are new to the district, there is a history that you don't know yet,
     
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2018
  16. MissCeliaB

    MissCeliaB Aficionado

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    My classes are: 15 in Speech II, Speech I classes of 31 and 29 each, and Film classes of 30, 27, and 33. I have one planning period. I make all of my own copies. I sponsor two clubs. I rarely feel overwhelmed. My classes this year are on the smallish size. However, I used to teach elementary, and I fought to keep my class sizes down. More than 18-20 in lower elementary was too many!
     
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  17. Ms.Holyoke

    Ms.Holyoke Connoisseur

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    I always vote for candidates who support education. The reason that I am frustrated about class sizes and supplies is not because it is "less than perfect for me" but because it means that my students will not receive the education that they deserve. I do know that sometimes schools receive donations/grants for certain purposes which limits where the money goes. However, in a Title 1 school, I think that keeping class sizes low should be a top priority.
     
  18. futuremathsprof

    futuremathsprof Phenom

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    Even the smartest kids sometimes act out, and then are emboldened when they are in large groups. I always remind my students that if they act out, I’ll become FMP 2.0 and they won’t like that — it usually keeps hem in check.
     
  19. futuremathsprof

    futuremathsprof Phenom

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    Right, sometimes multiple students have questions and you can only get to so many students if all of their questions are different. There have been times in the past where I spent the entire period fixing issues with students’ calculators because students have casios, and various Texas Instruments like the TI-83, TI-84 Plus Silver Edition, the newer TI-84’s, the old TI-89, and TI-89 Titanium. Because of that, I know practically all of the functions on most models of calculators.

    Why do students use different brands of calculators when I tell them to get a certain model?!
     
  20. Backroads

    Backroads Aficionado

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    I had 30 second graders one year. It's hard.
     
  21. TrademarkTer

    TrademarkTer Groupie

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    We just have a class set of TI-84 colors in every classroom to prevent that issue. Even with our class sets of TI-84s, some kids try to bring in their own calculators to use instead. I tell them they're on their own with those, and I'm not stopping to troubleshoot.

    I also like to reply: Pretend it's your phone and you'll figure it out.
     
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2018
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  22. Ms.Holyoke

    Ms.Holyoke Connoisseur

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    One of my classes went from 30 to 29! Small victories :)
     
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  23. viola_x_wittrockiana

    viola_x_wittrockiana Comrade

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    The school I attended as a child was in a similar position to the OP's. There were schools in the district with 40 kids in the whole grade and mine had four first grade sections of 30+ each. The parents pitched a fit, so we got an aide split between the classes. My mom ended up coming in for push-in reading services. The parents kept up all year and some did move their kids elsewhere, so we got five sections of each grade after that.

    OP, is there a college near you? If your district would ok it, you might be able to get a little help from their ed. students. That's what my university did, and I have to say it's a win-win.
     
  24. futuremathsprof

    futuremathsprof Phenom

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    Some students can figure it out and others cannot. All students are required to bring a graphing calculator. The school only provides calculators for students on financial aid.

    If a student has a TI-83, for example, that’s what I have to work with. And I actually like the challenge and I’ve learned a TON about the various models of the calculators or there. Now, it’s a breeze helping students, but when everyone has a question: Oof!
     
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2018
  25. allaphoristic

    allaphoristic Companion

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    I had 31 third graders last year. Right now, I have 26 on my roster, but that number keeps rising. It's really rough.
     
  26. miss-m

    miss-m Devotee

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    I haven't looked into it since I enjoy being in the classroom, but it is something I've thought about A LOT because of the current political state of education. I haven't decided yet if politics is something I could see myself getting into or not.
     
  27. Teacher234

    Teacher234 Cohort

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    I had 12 students last year and will have 11 or 12 students this year. (I had a student placed in general education for this year, so I am not sure if the spot will be filled.)
     
  28. creativemonster

    creativemonster Comrade

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    My classes this year are enormous, and I am furious that strong educators (administrators) who really do (I believe) care about the actual education of our students, are allowing this to happen. But I am in HS and the over crowded classes are much, much worse at younger ages. I agree about getting the research and sharing it with parents and other teachers. You can't fight this alone - share out the research whenever you can and have specific steps parents can take (letters to the board members, visits to board meetings, etc.) And PLEASE be careful - don't get yourself singled out by board or admin as a "trouble maker." Be clear that you understand that everyone wants what is best for the students and sometimes that does not mean the least expensive. (One of my classes should be split in two, but school doesn't have it in budget to pay for another class)

    sigh. It's hard. Those of us with high (enormous) numbers are too exhausted to fight it and so it continues.
     
  29. futuremathsprof

    futuremathsprof Phenom

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    How big are your classes?
     
  30. Backroads

    Backroads Aficionado

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    The other new lady on my team moved from Florida (to Utah). We've yet to see our class rosters for 1st grade, but our team veteran says it's usually around 22 (crossing fingers). New Lady was horrified because in her spot in Florida k-2 was capped at 18.
     
  31. Ms.Holyoke

    Ms.Holyoke Connoisseur

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    One of my classes got bumped up to 34 while the other went down to 27. I contacted my union rep to see if we have class size limits in our contract and he said that they propose it every year but it will never go through because of the growing population in my district and budget issues.
     
  32. creativemonster

    creativemonster Comrade

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    My ninth grade class is 37 and then they have an elective with me in the next block that three 10th graders join. This is a new grade for me, so I'm planning frantically....for the elective I created a Project that they will work on in groups that will take them through about ten weeks. I am still planning it, but feel good about it. I have had bigger classes - I feel bad for teachers in that situation yes, but worse for the students who might easily fall through the cracks, not get help, or just floated along, without really seeing their own potential. I have been begging my principal to split my class into two, but he doesn't have the staff to do this and the problem starts higher up the food chain. My district spends a lot of their budget on lawyers instead of students.
     

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