February 25, 2009
Districts and states across the land are all making changes to save some change. A few are even eyeing the long-sacred cow of small class sizes. A few weeks ago it was Schwarzenegger taking some heat for proposing district flexibility to take class size reduction funds and use them for other purposes (unfortunately the measure didn't make the final budget); this week it's Florida and New York City, the former contemplating and the latter having already increased the classroom nosecount. This makes sense. Reducing class size by a few students--from 27 to 23 for example--has never been shown to have much effect on student achievement but it's enormously expensive. Undoing it, even partway, saves big bucks. University of Washington's Dan Goldhaber reasons this practice comes from a desire for easily measurable classroom changes--anyone can count the number of students in a room. "We know that teachers are the most important thing, but teacher quality is not stamped on someone's forehead," he explains. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg agrees: "If you have to have smaller class size or better teachers, go with the better teachers every time." Let's hope more states and districts jump on this bandwagon.
"Officials May Ease Rule on Class Size," by Christine Armario, Associated Press, February 22, 2009
"Class Sizes Makes Biggest Jump of Bloomberg Tenure," by Jennifer Medina, New York Times, February 17, 2009
"Class Size in New York City Schools Rises, but the Impact Is Debated," by Jennifer Medina, New York Times, February 21, 2009