Archives for category: Class size

Parent leaders from across Néw York City are rallying tomorrow at 4 pm to protest Governor Cuomo’s deal to give more space, more money, and free rent to the charters that enroll 6% of the children in the city’s schools. This giveaway to billionaire-funded charters occurs at the same time that many public are overcrowded, and class size is at its highest point in 15 years.


Rally at NY Public Library and March On Governor Cuomo’s Office Tomorrow to Draw Hundreds of Outraged Parents from All Over City

Elected Parent Leaders from Citywide and Community Education Councils Across five boroughs Unite Against Gov. Cuomo’s Attacks on Public Education and Demand Fair Treatment of Public School Students

In an unprecedented show of unity, elected parent leaders and public education advocates from all five boroughs will gather to say all kids matter and to protest the selling off of public school buildings by Governor Cuomo and the State Senate leaders to the charter school lobby, by giving preferential rights and funding to the 6% of New York City students in charter schools while the needs of 1.1 million public school students remain unmet.

WHEN: Thursday, April 10, at 4 PM.

WHERE: Steps of the NY Public Library, Fifth Ave. at 41st Street. Following the rally participants will march to the Governor’s Office at 633 Third Avenue at 40th Street.

VISUALS: Parents, advocates, and students holding balloons, signs and flashing fake money.

WHO: Council Education Chair Danny Dromm, State Senator Bill Perkins, NAACP Head Hazel Dukes, former Council Education Chair Robert Jackson, other Council Members, parents, advocates and students, led by Community Education Councils and Citywide Councils from all five boroughs, elected by parents to represent their 1.1 million public school children.

WHAT: Community Education Council members, parents, advocates, and students, educators and elected officials protest how Governor Cuomo and legislative leaders are creating a two-tiered education system, in which the charter school lobby will now be given veto power over New York City’s public school buildings, and any new or expanding charter will be provided free on-demand public school space or private accommodations paid for by the city. Meanwhile, public school students – a majority of whom sit in overcrowded classrooms, buildings and trailers – have no such rights, and still wait for the equitable funding from the State as promised by the state’s highest court in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity decision.

Co-sponsored by Citywide and Community Education Councils; Alliance for Quality Education (AQE); Brooklyn New School PAC; Change the Stakes; Class Size Matters; ICOPE (Independent Commission on Public Education); MORE; New York Communities for Change (NYCC); New York Lawyers for Public Interest; NYCORE;; ParentVoicesNY; Parent Leaders of Upper Eastside Schools (PLUS); Partnership for Student Advocacy; Teachers Unite; Time Out from Testing, WAGPOPS (list in formation)

The most famous line ever written by John Dewey was this:

“What the best and wisest parent wants for his own child, that must the community want for all its children. Any other ideal for our schools is narrow and unlovely; acted upon, it destroys our democracy.”

Our frequent commenter KrazyTA has been exploring what our leading reformers–who see themselves as our best and wisest educational visionaries–want for their own children. After Bill Gates spoke to the teachers at the annual conference of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards to explain why the Common Core was absolutely necessary and was the key to teachers’ creativity, KrazyTA inquired into the practices at the elite Lakeside School in Seattle, where Bill was a student and where his own children are enrolled.

This is what he found:

“Strangely, when I went to the Lakeside School website—you know, where Bill Gates and his children went/go to school—I found not a single mention of Common Core, standardization and electric plugs. Not to mention that they weren’t coupled with terms like “innovation” and “teaching.”

“Worse yet, not a single mention of how “college and career readiness” has been lacking there up until now either. Am I missing something? Anyway, let’s see what sort of institution crippled Mr. Bill Gates.

“Let’s start with “About Lakeside.”

First, their mission statement:

[start quote]

“The mission of Lakeside School is to develop in intellectually capable young people the creative minds, healthy bodies, and ethical spirits needed to contribute wisdom, compassion, and leadership to a global society. We provide a rigorous and dynamic academic program through which effective educators lead students to take responsibility for learning.

“We are committed to sustaining a school in which individuals representing diverse cultures and experiences instruct one another in the meaning and value of community and in the joy and importance of lifelong learning.

[end quote]

Second, “Mission Focus”:

[start quote]

“Lakeside School fosters the development of citizens capable of and committed to interacting compassionately, ethically, and successfully with diverse peoples and cultures to create a more humane, sustainable global society. This focus transforms our learning and our work together.

[end quote]


“Academics Overview” with the subtitle “A Commitment to Excellence”:

[start quote]

“Lakeside’s 5th- to 12th-grade student-centered academic program focuses on the relationships between talented students and capable and caring teachers. We develop and nurture students’ passions and abilities and ensure every student feels known.

“The cultural and economic diversity of our community, the teaching styles, and the approaches to learning are all essential to Lakeside academics. We believe that in today’s global world, our students need to know more than one culture, one history, and one language.

“Each student’s curiosities and capabilities lead them to unique academic challenges that are sustained through a culture of support and encouragement. All students will find opportunities to discover and develop a passion; to hone the skills of writing, thinking, and speaking; and to interact with the world both on and off campus. Lakeside trusts that each student has effective ideas about how to maximize his or her own education, and that they will positively contribute to our vibrant learning community.

[end quote]


“Let’s switch gears—or at least websites. Even more strangely, I found that stuff like class size matters:

[start quote]

“Finally, I had great relationships with my teachers here at Lakeside. Classes were small. You got to know the teachers. They got to know you. And the relationships that come from that really make a difference…

[end quote]

“More of this nonsense [?] can be found in the link below, like the fact that Lakeside School has a student/teacher ration of 9:1 and average class size of 16.


“Well, I could on and on but I fear we need to rescue the little tykes in the Gates family from such horrors as, well, feast your eyes on this bit of barbarity regarding the Study Year Abroad:

[start quote]

“Since 1964, School Year Abroad has sent high school juniors and seniors to study abroad in distinctive cities and towns throughout Europe and Asia where their safety and security is a priority. Widely considered the ‘gold standard’ of high school study abroad programs, SYA’s rigorous academic curriculum, paired with complementary educational travel and varied extracurricular activities, ensure students are in an optimal position to return to their home schools or proceed to college.

[end quote]


“Nuff said. Will you be joining Eva M and the pro-charterite/privatizer commenters on this blog for the upcoming “Save the Children of the Poor Millionaires & Billionaires Rally: A New Civil Rights Movement For The Truly Downtrodden” — catered, don’t you worry, by Wolfgang Puck.

I hope the above will put you at ease.”


In recent years, the false “reformers” have told s again and again that having “a great teacher” (defined by test scores) is more important than the size of the class he or she teaches. They have proposed finding those great teachers (they are still looking, but haven’t found the right method to identify them), then assigning them classes of 35-40 or more. It never occurs to them that the great teachers might no longer be so great with large classes. They are looking at cost, not quality of education.

But now Professor Diane Whitmore Schanzanbach of Northwestern University has published a report demonstrating that class size really does matter. The needier the students, the more it matters.

” “Class size matters,” writes Schanzenbach, an economist and education policy professor at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. “Research supports the common-sense notion that children learn more and teachers are more effective in smaller classes.”

“Citing evidence from the academic literature, Schanzenbach explains that “class size is an important determinant of a variety of student outcomes ranging from test scores to broader life outcomes. Smaller classes are particularly effective at raising achievement levels of low-income and minority children.”

“Conversely, she points out, raising class size can be shown to be harmful to children. “Money saved today by increasing class sizes will result in more substantial social and educational costs in the future,” she writes.”

So when false reformers say they are advocating for the civil rights of poor and minority children, point out that if they mean it, they will reduce class size for children who need the most attention.

A respected researcher recently pointed out to me that there is a vast divide between most economists of education–who devoutly believe (it seems) that whatever matters can be measured, and if it can’t be measured, it doesn’t matter–and education researchers, who tend to think about the real world of students and teachers.

Here is an excellent example of the divide.

Bruce Baker takes issue with the currently fashionable idea that education can be dramatically improved by identifying the “best” teachers, giving them larger classes, and getting rid of the loser teachers.

Or, as he puts it:

“The solution to all of our woes is simple and elegant. Just follow these steps.

Step 1: Identify “really great” teachers (using your best VAM or SGP) who happen to be currently teaching inefficiently small classes of 14 to 17 students.

Step 2: Re-assign to those “really great” teachers another 12 or so students, because whatever losses might occur in relation to increased class size, the benefits of the “really great” teacher will far outweigh those losses.

Step 3: Enter underpants Gnomes.

Step 4. Test Score Awesomeness!”

He has a suggestion: Why not try the same at the fancy private and public schools?.

“One might assert that affluent suburban Westchester and Long Island districts with much smaller average class sizes should give more serious consideration to this proposal, that is, if they are a) willing to accept the assertion that they have both “bad” and “good” teachers and b) that parents in their districts are really willing to permit such experimentation with their children? I remain unconvinced.

“As for leading private independent schools which continue to use small class size as a major selling point (& differentiator from public districts), I’m currently pondering the construction of the double-decker Harkness table, to accommodate 12 students sitting on the backs of 12 others. This will be a disruptive innovation like no other!”

A reader pointed out that Lodge McCammon proposed his plan to change teacher compensation in North Carolina at least two years ago. McCammon is the author of the much-discussed 60-30-10 proposal. Actually, Lindsay Wagner cited this article in her report this morning. The article was written by McCammon, not taken out of context.

He wrote then:

“RALEIGH — Our nation is plagued by a failing system of education. While there appear to be endless solutions, few are yielding substantial results. I’m ready to make a statement: Educational problems may be solved with economic solutions! Pay our most efficient teachers per pupil and then allow them the option to increase class sizes and/or the number of classes they teach.

We want to recruit, maintain and empower the finest teachers in order to offer the best possible education to all students. So first, let’s get down to the basics: We need to pay great teachers more.

It’s not a radical idea, or even a new idea, though it seems impossible given the current economic limitations. I’m not advocating new funding in order to pay teachers more. I am instead suggesting a reallocation of funds to support the most effective teachers who are willing and able to serve more students.

Basic technologies have created significant advancements in classroom efficiencies. The 21st century classroom looks quite different than classrooms of the past. Therefore, it is now possible for a teacher who has adopted more efficient teaching practices to take on more students while offering high-quality, personalized instruction.

One of these newer practices is “flipping” the classroom. In a “flipped” classroom traditional lecture is removed from class and instead, the teacher uses video lectures that can be viewed by students at any time and as many times as needed. This frees up class time that can be used for collaboration, active learning and creative problem solving.”

Read more here:

What McKammon didn’t know in 2011 was that at the very moment he wrote that article, students in North Carolina were taking the TIMSS tests in math and science. When the results were released in 2012, students in North Carolina ranked among the best in the world.

North Carolina is embarked on reckless schemes to get rid of teachers, when it should be developing smart plans to support and retain them. They are doing a great job–those who have not fled the state–and they deserve recognition.

David Berliner has designed a provocative thought experiment.

He offers you State A and State B.

He describes salient differences between them.

Can you predict which state has high-performing schools and which state has low-performing schools?

The Roots of Academic Achievement
David C. Berliner
Regents’ Professor Emeritus
Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College
Arizona State University

Let’s do a thought experiment. I will slowly parcel out data about two different states. Eventually, when you are nearly 100% certain of your choice, I want you to choose between them by identifying the state in which an average child is likely to be achieving better in school. But you have to be nearly 100% certain that you can make that choice.

To check the accuracy of your choice I will use the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) as the measure of school achievement. It is considered by experts to be the best indicator we have to determine how children in our nation are doing in reading and mathematics, and both states take this test.

Let’s start. In State A the percent of three and four year old children attending a state associated prekindergarten is 8.8% while in State B the percent is 1.7%. With these data think about where students might be doing better in 4th and 8th grade, the grades NAEP evaluates student progress in all our states. I imagine that most people will hold onto this information about preschool for a while and not yet want to choose one state over the other. A cautious person might rightly say it is too soon to make such a prediction based on a difference of this size, on a variable that has modest, though real effects on later school success.

So let me add more information to consider. In State A the percent of children living in poverty is 14% while in State B the percent is 24%. Got a prediction yet? See a trend? How about this related statistic: In State A the percent of households with food insecurity is 11.4% while in State B the percent is 14.9%. I also can inform you also that in State A the percent of people without health insurance is 3.8% while in State B the percent is 17.7%. Are you getting the picture? Are you ready to pick one state over another in terms of the likelihood that one state has its average student scoring higher on the NAEP achievement tests than the other?

​If you still say that this is not enough data to make yourself almost 100% sure of your pick, let me add more to help you. In State A the per capita personal income is $54,687 while in state B the per capita personal income is $35,979. Since per capita personal income in the country is now at about $42,693, we see that state A is considerably above the national average and State B is considerably below the national average. Still not ready to choose a state where kids might be doing better in school?

Alright, if you are still cautious in expressing your opinions, here is some more to think about. In State A the per capita spending on education is $2,764 while in State B the per capita spending on education is $2,095, about 25% less. Enough? Ready to choose now?
Maybe you should also examine some statistics related to the expenditure data, namely, that the pupil/teacher ratio (not the class sizes) in State A is 14.5 to one, while in State B it is 19.8 to one.

As you might now suspect, class size differences also occur in the two states. At the elementary and the secondary level, respectively, the class sizes for State A average 18.7 and 20.6. For State B those class sizes at elementary and secondary are 23.5 and 25.6, respectively. State B, therefore, averages at least 20% higher in the number of students per classroom. Ready now to pick the higher achieving state with near 100% certainty? If not, maybe a little more data will make you as sure as I am of my prediction.

​In State A the percent of those who are 25 years of age or older with bachelors degrees is 38.7% while in State B that percent is 26.4%. Furthermore, the two states have just about the same size population. But State A has 370 public libraries and State B has 89.
Let me try to tip the data scales for what I imagine are only a few people who are reluctant to make a prediction. The percent of teachers with Master degrees is 62% in State A and 41.6% in State B. And, the average public school teacher salary in the time period 2010-2012 was $72,000 in State A and $46,358 in State B. Moreover, during the time period from the academic year 1999-2000 to the academic year 2011-2012 the percent change in average teacher salaries in the public schools was +15% in State A. Over that same time period, in State B public school teacher salaries dropped -1.8%.

I will assume by now we almost all have reached the opinion that children in state A are far more likely to perform better on the NAEP tests than will children in State B. Everything we know about the ways we structure the societies we live in, and how those structures affect school achievement, suggests that State A will have higher achieving students. In addition, I will further assume that if you don’t think that State A is more likely to have higher performing students than State B you are a really difficult and very peculiar person. You should seek help!

So, for the majority of us, it should come as no surprise that in the 2013 data set on the 4th grade NAEP mathematics test State A was the highest performing state in the nation (tied with two others). And it had 16 percent of its children scoring at the Advanced level—the highest level of mathematics achievement. State B’s score was behind 32 other states, and it had only 7% of its students scoring at the Advanced level. The two states were even further apart on the 8th grade mathematics test, with State A the highest scoring state in the nation, by far, and with State B lagging behind 35 other states.

Similarly, it now should come as no surprise that State A was number 1 in the nation in the 4th grade reading test, although tied with 2 others. State A also had 14% of its students scoring at the advanced level, the highest rate in the nation. Students in State B scored behind 44 other states and only 5% of its students scored at the Advanced level. The 8th grade reading data was the same: State A walloped State B!

States A and B really exist. State B is my home state of Arizona, which obviously cares not to have its children achieve as well as do those in state A. It’s poor achievement is by design. Proof of that is not hard to find. We just learned that 6000 phone calls reporting child abuse to the state were uninvestigated. Ignored and buried! Such callous disregard for the safety of our children can only occur in an environment that fosters, and then condones a lack of concern for the children of the Arizona, perhaps because they are often poor and often minorities. Arizona, given the data we have, apparently does not choose to take care of its children. The agency with the express directive of insuring the welfare of children may need 350 more investigators of child abuse. But the governor and the majority of our legislature is currently against increased funding for that agency.

State A, where kids do a lot better, is Massachusetts. It is generally a progressive state in politics. To me, Massachusetts, with all its warts, resembles Northern European countries like Sweden, Finland, and Denmark more than it does states like Alabama, Mississippi or Arizona. According to UNESCO data and epidemiological studies it is the progressive societies like those in Northern Europe and Massachusetts that care much better for their children. On average, in comparisons with other wealthy nations, the U. S. turns out not to take good care of its children. With few exceptions, our politicians appear less likely to kiss our babies and more likely to hang out with individuals and corporations that won’t pay the taxes needed to care for our children, thereby insuring that our schools will not function well.

But enough political commentary: Here is the most important part of this thought experiment for those who care about education. Everyone of you who predicted that Massachusetts would out perform Arizona did so without knowing anything about the unions’ roles in the two states, the curriculum used by the schools, the quality of the instruction, the quality of the leadership of the schools, and so forth. You made your prediction about achievement without recourse to any of the variables the anti-public school forces love to shout about –incompetent teachers, a dumbed down curriculum, coddling of students, not enough discipline, not enough homework, and so forth. From a few variables about life in two different states you were able to predict differences in student achievement test scores quite accurately.

I believe it is time for the President, the Secretary of Education, and many in the press to get off the backs of educators and focus their anger on those who will not support societies in which families and children can flourish. Massachusetts still has many problems to face and overcome—but they are nowhere as severe as those in my home state and a dozen other states that will not support programs for neighborhoods, families, and children to thrive.

This little thought experiment also suggests also that a caution for Massachusetts is in order. It seems to me that despite all their bragging about their fine performance on international tests and NAEP tests, it’s not likely that Massachusetts’ teachers, or their curriculum, or their assessments are the basis of their outstanding achievements in reading and mathematics. It is much more likely that Massachusetts is a high performing state because it has chosen to take better care of its citizens than do those of us living in other states. The roots of high achievement on standardized tests is less likely to be found in the classrooms of Massachusetts and more likely to be discovered in its neighborhoods and families, a refection of the prevailing economic health of the community served by the schools of that state.

Jere Hochman, superintendent of the Bedford Central School District in New York responds here to Tom Friedman’s column in the New York Times:



I could scream!
That is my reaction to Thomas Friedman’s column, “Obama’s Homework Assignment”
Mr. Friedman sees the big picture on every issue. This column is a shocker.

They put in annual high-stakes testing – that didn’t work.
They labeled districts – that didn’t work.
They tried small high schools – that didn’t work.
They diverted funds to charters – that’s not working.
They beat up on teachers – that didn’t work.
They’ve prescribed curriculum, scripts, and more testing – that’s not working.
So – why not blame parents until that doesn’t work?

Parents working three jobs don’t show up often but they want what’s best for their child.
Parents who do show up want high standards; not standardization.

Let’s see –
They cut funding for Parents as Teachers (most evidence based school readiness program there is).
No funding for early childhood, language development, and play.
No dangled RTTT grants for home visit programs.
Writing standards for 5 year olds.
Ignoring poverty.
Lowering taxes which depletes public schools and services.
Diverting funds to charter factories.
Obsessed with testing.
Broad brushing every school in the U.S. as the same.
Double and triple testing kids with disabilities and those learning English
Ignoring thousands of success stories.
Handcuffing states with egregious regulations.
Forgetting we educate every child.
Bowing to publisher lobbyists.

It’s so simple:
Attend to pre-natal and birth to five language development and play.
High standards, rich curriculum, professional development, innovative lessons, and meaningful evaluation.
Cap high school class sizes at least under 30, preferably 25
Provide comparable technology, resources, and funding in all districts
Focus on learning, not testing.
Systems thinking, not factory models.

Peter Greene, an English teacher and blogger in Pennsylvania, reviewed the wild and wacky video made by the staff at the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Apparently the kids there wanted the world to see them as fun-loving buddies who can laugh at themselves, but Greene thinks it didn’t work. Despite the high production values, there is something unfunny about Fordham’s policy ideas (no to smaller classes, yes to Common Core).

Greene, you will note, updated his post at a time when he was teaching William Faulkner’s Light in August to high school students, a task we may assume is as valuable (more valuable?) to society than having a desk job in Washington and telling the nation’s teachers what they ought to be doing.

He writes:

“Final effect? People making wacky shenanigans out of policy ideas that are being used to destroy public education? It’s a hard thing to parse– how would “Springtime for Hitler” have come across if it had been staged by the Nazis themselves? I am not meaning to suggest that Fordham = Nazis, but I do wonder what we’re to make of people making themselves look more ridiculous that we could make them look on purpose.

“It is part of the tone deafness problem. I want to shake them and say, “Did you not see this? Do you not know how you look, both awkward and opposite-of-cool, while making jokes about policies being used to destroy peoples’ careers?” Somehow while shooting for cool and relaxed and with it, they’ve hit uncool and callous, thereby suggesting that they are imbued with so much hubris and arrogance that they either can’t see or don’t care (because only unimportant people will be bothered, and they don’t matter). This is the education industry equivalent of those bankers’ videos of obscenely wealthy parties, the Christmas cards from wealthy apartments, the total lack of understanding of what things are like out there on the street, because the street is just for the commoners who don’t matter.

“It’s an oddly fascinating train wreck. Is it awesomely funny because it’s so awful, or is it too awful to be funny. Whatever the case, it gives a strong 2:20 feel for what sort of attitude permeates Fordham, and it is just as bad as we ever imagined. maybe worse.”

John Flavin teaches language arts in a rural high school in Oregon.

He wrote this article for explaining what really matters in school reform.

Time and resources for teachers to prepare for the flood of federal mandates.

Class sizes of 22 or less. In his school, some classes have more than 40 students.

A restoration of options and electives. He wrote: “All across America students are stripped of drama, band, wood and metal shops, and dozens of other career-starters designed to serve a diverse population.”

A de-emphasis on standardized tests,which harm children with high needs.

He concludes:

“If you’re not a teacher, you ought to be saying to yourself: The enemy of America’s future is anyone who is opposed to guaranteed classroom sizes of 22 or less, increased professional development for teachers, diversified options for students and the elimination of standardized tests as we know them.”

The Friedman Foundation, named for free-market economist Milton Friedman and his wife Rose, is the nation’s most fervent advocate of vouchers.

It commissioned a national poll to ascertain the depth of support for vouchers, and much to its surprise (and, no doubt, embarrassment), the public prefers smaller class sizes far more than vouchers.

Furthermore, the least favored option among those presented in the poll was vouchers for low-income families. To the extent that the public favors vouchers, it is for everyone, not just for the poor.

The public’s least favorite way to “reform” school was longer school days, according to this poll.

But the big problem for the Friedman Foundation is that the public prefers to improve public schools by reducing class sizes, not by adopting vouchers.


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