Sunday, April 27, 2008

15 to 1 seems like a joke

A recent post by Dennis Fermoyle has me thinking about class-size reduction as I have experienced it in Nevada. By law, our student to teacher ratio is supposed to be 15 to 1 in grades K, 1, 2 and 3. I have 22 students in my second grade class this year. I can only imagine the kind of work I could do with a third less students!

I taught at a Title I school here in Nevada for several years. We had a group of kids who, because of how the numbers fell, were always privileged with very small class sizes from first grade until fifth grade. They were a testimony to the benefits of class size reduction, especially for second language learners. These kids, as fifth graders, were bright and intuitive. They were critical thinkers. They were months ahead of fifth grade classes before them. We had been advocating for finding a way to reduce class sizes at that school. These kids were our proof that smaller classes work.

In our state, when the school runs out of room they start "teaming" classes, which means putting two classes together with two teachers in one room. They have the nerve to call this class size reduction. Tell me your class size is reduced when you have 36 bodies in one room. I took it for granted that this was common practice until I traveled to Long Beach with my site improvement team to check out an award-winning Title I school. If you're a visiting teacher coming from an overcrowded school, the first thing you do is count the number of desks in the room. We asked a third grade teacher how it was possible to have only 20 desks in the room.
"Our class-size reduction calls for a 20-1 ratio," she said.
"That's nice," we said, "but what about when the 21st student enrolls?"
"They bus him to another school."
After we picked our jaws up off the carpet, we realized that here was a district that was serious about maintaining small class sizes.

I don't know much about bond issues or how new schools get built. What I do know about is working so hard, year after year, teaching huge groups of kids with the greatest academic needs.


Urban School Teacher said...

22 students in a class! You lucky thing! Most of my classes have 30-32 students, regardless of age or ability level. It is not rare for me to have a class of 34, even though I have only 32 desks and chairs.
The suggested ratio of 1 teacher to every 15 students would be wonderful, a different job. Like you say, my mouth waters at the amount of progress that could be made in such a situation.
Mr Teacher

TeacherDee said...

Mr Teacher,
Thank you for your comment. My blog is new and I hold my breath every time I visit it, hoping someone has actually read it (besides my husband). Our local high school has classrooms of over 30 students, as well. It's a shame that you don't even have enough desks in your room.

Here, the small classes are found in grades 1, 2, and 3--presumably because those are the formative years for reading and writing. I'm curious to know how big classes are for primary grades in London.