But Class Size Doesn’t Matter?

I’ve never understood the arguments claiming that class size doesn’t matter. While it might not affect many students, those students who are on the edge will suffer when class size explodes (boldface mine):

When Shania started third grade at P.S. 148 last fall, she was thrilled to be back at the Queens public school. An outgoing eight-year-old, she said she was happy to be among her friends again, and she had loved her class the previous year. Her second-grade teacher would take the time to explain tricky topics like addition and subtraction one-on-one. She had even been named “student of the month.”

But since 2007, as the economy has tanked and expenses for public schools have risen, New York City has made principals cut budgets by 13.7 percent. When budgets are cut, teachers are fired and others aren’t replaced — including at P.S. 148, which has lost at least $600,000 and eight teachers since 2010. When teachers are lost, class sizes balloon. Shania had 31 classmates this past school year, compared to 20 the year before.

“Mommy, I want to change,” Shania said a week into the school year, according to her mother, Laynory Loaiza. “There are too many kids in my class, and when I try to talk to the teacher, she doesn’t pay attention to me.”

Shania liked her veteran teacher, Joan Barnett, but with 32 eight-year-olds to teach, Barnett said she simply didn’t have time to slow things down and repeat lessons on multiplication and division more than twice.

Loaiza watched, in pain, as Shania’s enthusiasm ebbed away. She would make up excuses, like stomach aches, to avoid getting out of bed on weekdays. “There was always a fight to get her to go to school,” Loaiza said. “She’d never fought me before.”

When Shania came home, she couldn’t concentrate on her homework. “Writing, math and reading was hard for me,” Shania said. “I need help with division, multiplication and subtraction.”

“It’s the first time I’ve seen her struggle in school,” Loaiza recalled. “She started doing bad in math. Everything was hard.”

After consistently receiving B’s in previous years, Shania finished third grade this year with C’s and D’s. She was almost held back and forced to repeat the year.

As I’ve mentioned before, wealthy people might claim class size doesn’t matter, but they don’t actually live that philosophy with their own children. The tragedy here is that the only thing missing here is money–there are teachers willing to teach, students willing to learn, and schools to house them.

Nothing an infusion of federal support couldn’t fix to so many people’s benefit.

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3 Responses to But Class Size Doesn’t Matter?

  1. kaleberg
    Kaleberg says:

    I actually went to PS 148 in Queens ages ago. Our class sizes ranged from a low of 32 to a high of 36. Newtown High School was running on a double shift. Basically, the school system was slammed by the baby boom. There were a million students and 50,000 teachers in the system back then. At one point there were 1.1 million and 60,000 teachers, so the ratio has gone from 20:1 to about 18:1, so I’m not sure if they ever really got the class sizes down all that much. I think that class size can make a difference, but I’m not sure if New York City’s schools ever got to see much of one.

  2. Newcastle says:

    While fully I agree with the premise that 32 is way too large a class it does not change the fact that I am left wondering why Shania’s parents didn’t pick up the slack and work with their daughter to keep her on track. I most surely do with my son.

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