With guest, Louder Than a Bomb poet Nate Marshall

Friday, September 25, 2009

Think-tanks & class size

For more than a decade now, I've been hearing from right-wing think-tankers, like Fordham's Checker Finn, Mike Petrilli, and the Hoover Institute's Eric Hanushek, that class size doesn't matter. The research, they claim, shows little benefit to student achievement scores by reducing the number of students in a class. With class sizes in L.A. high schools soaring to 50 per class and Brooklyn kids being squeezed into classrooms with a shoehorn, Finn and his crew have suddenly grown quiet on the topic.

This from today's Daily News:
Intermediate School 227 in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, had no classes with more than 30 students in it last year. Now it has 15, including one for English language learners. Teachers scramble to move desks between classes to accommodate all the children. In some classes, students must share books. "There's a lot of graffiti in the books; pages are stuck together with gum," said Joshua Fernandez, 13, who is in the eighth grade at IS 227 and is in a class with 32 students - who also share desks.

At IS 230 in Jackson Heights, Queens, budget cuts forced the principal to eliminate an entire eighth-grade class, pushing the size of seven classes to more than 30 students. "The principal tried to avoid hurting the kids as much as she could," said Peter Bloch, the school's dean. "They're not getting as much individualized attention now." The school also lost the teachers who used to pull struggling students out of class for extra help. The building is supposed to hold 750 students but now has about 965.

Perhaps if the think-tankers had to teach for a day in Bensenhurst or Jackson Heights, they would have to rethink what the research shows.

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