Letter from a Teacher in Defense of Small Class Sizes

Jennifer T, a Washington, D.C. public school teacher (and friend from my hometown!), writes in with the following response to yesterday's post on class size.

This teacher believes that class size is tied with improving teacher education as the number one issue in education today. Really good teaching is differentiated teaching- meeting each and every kid where they are and raising their level of work bit by bit, day by day. Only by knowing each kid, conferencing with each kid and providing instruction to each kid how he or she best learns can we honestly close the achievement gap. We cannot do this with 26 second graders and only one teacher. It is impossible. Even for excellent (Highly Effective, even!) teachers in well-funded schools with amazing PTAs that pay for full-time assistants who are graduate students of education. Not with reading specialists and ELL teachers and all sorts of other personnel.

I obviously speak with experience in this one. Those of us who work 10 hour days matching kids with curriculum would greatly appreciate a decrease in class size. 16 would be dreamy, but I would settle for 18. We could go a lot deeper with 18. Instead of putting out fires and putting on bandaids to make sure the lowest kids weren't falling to far behind our curriculum guides, we could also make sure that our high flyers are being challenged and the vast middle isn't just passed through.
I would not take more money for larger classes. I don't think it's good for kids and it is certainly not good for already overworked teachers.

3 thoughts on “Letter from a Teacher in Defense of Small Class Sizes

  1. bearerfriend

    This is right on! And it helps get at why the student achievement data on class size reduction is so mixed. When you cut class size, you have to go on a teacher hiring spree. Some states did this, but without addressing teacher quality. So, effectively, reducing class size meant lowering teacher quality standards since districts had to hire more teachers without improving the quality of the pool they were hiring from. We still don’t know what class size reduction would do to student achievement if properly implemented. And either way, the heart of the issue remains: teacher quality.

  2. Susanrileyphoto

    Totally agree here as well. As a music teacher, I can tell you that when you have 28 kids in a class, you can only ever scratch the surface. And if we’re headed toward portfolio reviews, as was hinted at during the meeting with Arne Duncan, than I can assure you that smaller classes would be key in being able to truly teach the national standards with any kind of integrity.

  3. Danton

    Yes. Yes. Yes. I learned to write in a high school where teachers had small English classes and only three sections of writing-intensive classes. We wrote a three-page theme per week: we received the assignment on a Friday and it had to be turned in the next Friday. On Mondays, the teachers passed out copies of everyone’s papers and we went over them. I did this for four years. When I realized my two children were not writing much in high school, we began this regimen–a bit modified–at home. I’d say my kids, ages 19 and 22, are becoming very good writers. And readers, too, I’ll add. But teachers, alas, can’t do this anymore.


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