Thursday, May 31, 2012

Size Matters

So does character, but that wasn't what Mitt "Enz" Romney was talking about. He was talking about class size. He said, "The schools in the district with the smallest classroom sizes had students performing in the bottom ten percent. Just getting smaller classrooms didn't seem to be the key." There are plenty of studies that the presumptive Republican candidate can cite, but it doesn't make a lot of what we in the education biz call "sense." By the way, we call Mitterling the "presumptive nominee" not because he hasn't yet been named his party's guy, but because he makes a lot of presumptions.
Like the one he made about class size. Those low performing students that he refers to are not necessarily languishing at the bottom of whatever measure the experts choose to use because they have less than twenty kids in their classroom. It's a little like suggesting that hospital rooms cause illness since so many sick people can be found there. I hesitate to say it, because of my chosen profession, but it could be that the classrooms that contain those under-performing students might also contain under-performing teachers. Or a lack of up-to-date materials. Or an large proportion of English-language-learners.
But let's go back to that teacher question, since it's an easy enough target to access. I would hope that no one would argue that teaching one child easier than twenty. I would also allow that after a certain point, teaching ten or more kids is not that much different from teaching twenty. I can also say that there is a marked difference between teaching twenty than thirty. As long as every kid gets a textbook and a warm body at the front of the room with access to the teacher's edition of that textbook, why shouldn't we maximize our savings by getting as many kids into that room as possible? If class size doesn't matter, why not gather all the kids in the cafeteria and let one or two highly trained professionals have a whack at all three or four hundred of the little rascals?
It's not just Mitt 'n' Grits Romney that holds this belief to be true. Barack Obama's Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan has urged districts to improve efficiency by making “smartly targeted increases in class size” and spend their funds instead on “online learning, virtual schools, and other smart uses of technology.”
I understand that budget cuts are one of the pillars of education reform in our country.The focus on both party's education platform is in recruiting and hiring effective teachers and administrators. Good luck on that one if your plan is to recruit highly effective teachers and turn them loose on a room full of thirty-plus hungry and confused young minds. If things don't work out for them in those classrooms, there's always a future for them in consultancy.

1 comment:

Krs10 said...

Yeah, he was citing a study by a business consulting firm. The University of Tennessee's study was a little different. Why are all these business people going around thinking you can run a school (or a country) like a business? Argh.