Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Duncan wants larger schools and larger "smartly targeted" class sizes

Arne Duncan urged districts to consider "modest but smartly targeted increases in class size." As a parent, Duncan said, he'd much rather have his kids in a class of 26 with a really excellent teacher, than in a class with 22 kids, lead by a mediocre teacher. (Edweek)
Duncan, speaking at a forum sponsored by the neocon American Enterprise Institute, also called for closing "under-populated schools." But for most, who can't afford a home in his Arlington,Virginia neighborhood, those aren't really the choices, are they? The Duncans' don't send their kids to inner-city schools where many class sizes have swelled to 40 or 50 as a result of the economic crisis and mass teacher firings. To avoid D.C. schools (even with Michelle Rhee running the show) they moved across the river in suburban Arlington, where schools and class sizes remain relatively small.

"I didn't want to try to save the country's children and our educational system and jeopardize my own children's education," Duncan told the Wall Street Journal.
First of all, Duncan hasn't really "saved the country's children," or its educational system, has he? And while it is all well and good to want the best for his own children, it's a bit disingenuous of him to use them as an example of why he doesn't mind a class of 26 with an ace teacher in front of it. Well of course not. That's not even an issue where he lives. For many kids in L.A. or Oakland however, the reality is a class size of 35-40, not 22-26, often with an inexperienced TFA teacher or a full-time sub teaching outside of their subject area.

Duncan tries to snow us with his comparisons to "Asian" schools and his use of averages when comparing their class sizes to those in U.S. schools to justify his claim. There is no real average class size, either here or in Asia. "Average" becomes almost a meaningless term in places where wealthy communities buy down class size and in poorer ones where size swells. In some inner-city neighborhoods in Los Angeles, for example, high school class sizes have swelled to 50 students. Class sizes in the 30s, once considered extreme, have become the new normal in high schools across Oregon.  Duncan must have already forgotten his home town, Chicago, where class sizes were  projected to climb above 35 until the teachers union filed suit to block the increases.

No, we don't need any more class-size increases--"smartly targeted" or not. Nor do we need our secretary of education using his bully pulpit to push for larger classes.

1 comment:

  1. Sec. Duncan. Where's the evidence that increasing class size, "targeted" or not, is good for kids?


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