Wednesday, August 06, 2008

More What Works

This paper, Lessons Learned: New Teachers Talk about their Jobs, Challenges, and Long-Range Plans, is a survey of first-year teachers. (This is based on interviews with a nationally representative sample of 641 first-year teachers in March/April 2007.)

From the NYC Parent blog:

"76% of teachers overall said that reducing class size would be "a very effective" way of improving teacher quality, and 78% of teachers who work in high needs schools. 21% of teachers said reducing class size would be "effective", for a total of 97% -- far outstripping every other strategy mentioned, including :

Increasing teacher salaries (57%), increasing professional development opportunities (54%), making it easier to terminate unmotivated or incompetent teachers (41%), requiring new teachers to spend time under the supervision of experienced teachers (35%) requiring graduate degrees in education (21%), requiring teachers to pass tough tests of their knowledge ot their subject (21%), tying salaries to principal or colleagues assessment (15%) tying rewards and sanctions to student performance (13%), eliminating tenure (12%), reducing regulations for teacher certification (8%), and relying more on alternative certificaiton (6%).

(In each of the categories I have put in parentheses the percent who said this would be a "very effective" way to to improve teacher quality.)

By the way, these views about the effectiveness of reducing class size to improve teacher effectiveness are shared by more experienced teachers and most principals as well.

See this 2006 public agenda survey of teachers and school administrators, "Is Support for Standards and Testing Fading."

"If the public schools finally got more money and smaller classes, they could do a better job." 88% of teachers agreed with this statement, and 85% of superintendents and principals, far outstripping any response.

Compare how many teachers, superintendents and principals agreed with this statement: "More testing and higher standards will ensure kids will master the skills they need": 1% (teachers), 7% (supers); 10% (principals)."

Wow; no matter how much technology or testing we do, the educators still believe class size is key.

Any volunteers to find out exactly how SPS is spending our I-728 money and why it isn't all going to lower class size?


ISM said...

First of all, let me state that I would love to see my daughter in a smaller class. The past few years she has been in classes of 28-30 students and that seems unwieldy, at best. I don't think anyone wants large classes. (I should note, however, that despite the large class sizes, students in her school achieve at levels higher than the city and state averages.)

Some research indicates that class size has little effect on student achievement. Other research says that smaller class sizes have positive impacts on student achievement but other conditions must be met, as well. I did a quick google search of "class size student achievement" to back up what I think to be true and came across The Center for Public Education's website. Here’s what they say:

Some researchers have not found a connection between smaller classes and higher student achievement, but most of the research shows that when class size reduction programs are well-designed and implemented in the primary grades (K-3), student achievement rises as class size drops.

They go on to say:

From this review of the research, we can scientifically document several important findings about reduced class size, which local school districts may find useful:
• Smaller classes in the early grades (K-3) can boost student academic achievement;
• A class size of no more than 18 students per teacher is required to produce the greatest benefits;
• A program spanning grades K-3 will produce more benefits than a program that reaches students in only one or two of the primary grades;
• Minority and low-income students show even greater gains when placed in small classes in the primary grades;
• The experience and preparation of teachers is a critical factor in the success or failure of class size reduction programs;
• Reducing class size will have little effect without enough classrooms and well-qualified teachers; and
• Supports, such as professional development for teachers and a rigorous curriculum, enhance the effect of reduced class size on academic achievement.

Once again, what I take away from this is that we need comprehensive school reform. We need to fully fund our K-12 system in Washington State. Without that funding we won’t be able to reduce class size in a meaningful way; maintain experienced and well-qualified teachers, especially in high-need schools; increase the number of classrooms; or implement other needed supports.

We can pick away at the many different problems that plague our school system by doing a little here and a little there, but in the end if we want a high quality education for our children, we must look at the entire system and work to change it.

classof75 said...

Dan Dempsey made this observation on this blog in Jan of this year.

As I have mentioned before class size reduction is not a priority in Seattle. MG-J has clearly indicated this. There is no emphasis on reducing regular class size.

For this academic year 2007-2008, the SPS are spending money on academic coaches in math and literacy for teachers ($4.2 million) and Pathways program for high school WASL failures ($3.1 million). A lot of this is I-728 money. Reduction of regular class size is only one use for which I-728 money can be used. SPS have found lots of other ways to use it rather than reducing class size.

The above mentioned $7.3 million could buy more than 100 additional regular classroom teachers, which would have an impact on regular class size and also indicate that class size is a concern.

Get ready for additional special education student mainstreaming into regular classrooms.