Thursday, August 25, 2005

How Many Is Too Many?

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It was when I was reading this post about Darren's first day of school that I realized something: (emphasis added)
I brought home some more data entry work to do tonight. I have 41 students in one of my classes, 5 over the contract limit, and 39 in another. However, the school has a month to fix that! Guess I'd better start scrounging for desks. Last district I worked in, we were paid cash money twice a year for overages, in part because of the extra grading/data entry/attention/work involved. Not so here! So I'll be typing more student ID numbers into my grading program (I use Grade Machine) so that later in the week, after I give the first assignment, I'll have all my recordkeeping ready to go.
While many teachers must cope with such large numbers of students, (In Darren's case, a math class, no less!) I find it amazing that there are administrators out there (including our district's superintendent) who actually have the nerve to inform (without citing any sources) their teaching staffs that research doesn't support the idea that smaller class sizes help raise the level of student achievement.

With large class sizes such as these, how can that be true? For most teachers working in public schools, having classes the size of Darren's offer little opportunity for the instructor to work with individual students. Even working with a small group of pupils becomes a difficult proposition as much of the teacher's energies must be expended on keeping the rest of the class orderly and on task.

I am curious to know if those who administer schools (but wouldn't, on a bet, go near a classroom and teach kids themselves) and repeatedly tell their teachers that when it comes to academic achievement, "class size doesn't matter," would concede that there is any correlation between large classes and low teacher morale and high rates of "burnout."

I wonder what the research would show?

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