From Lu Battaglieri, Executive Director of the MEA

Lu’s News

April 15, 2011

Good morning,

Here’s this week’s update:

Although Spring officially arrives in March, it isn’t spring in Michigan until the orange barrels come out on the roads, dandelions come up in our lawns, and pink slips fill our members’ mailboxes.

I fully expected that layoffs would spike this year given the decline in student enrollment, deep cuts to school district budgets from the state, and the evaporation of the federal stimulus dollars. But what we are seeing runs from ridiculous to insanity – in Flint 40% of staff and in Monroe 100% of staff received pink slips.

Now come the reformers who are taking sound research on the importance of a qualified teacher, ignoring the research on the impact of small class size, and making a case that increasing class size is ok if you have a qualified teacher in front of the classroom. Of course their definition of a good teacher is one who doesn’t belong to a union, does not have tenure or seniority, pays a large amount for their health benefits, whose students score high on standardized tests, and got their four week training from Teach For America.

Class size matters!

As a practical matter, large class sizes aren’t good for kids—more students equals less teacher attention which equals lower student achievement.

For many educators and parents, the benefits of smaller class sizes seem obvious, but many policymakers and corporate “reformers” don’t seem to see it that way. Their thinking seems to be that as long as there is a good teacher in the classroom, it doesn’t matter how many kids are packed into it.

As the budget battle heats up at the Capitol, below is some information that I think you’ll find helpful as you address the impact of staff reductions on class size in your district with the community and policymakers.

The Seven Myths of Class Size Reduction — And the Truth (below are a few highlights)

  • Studies have demonstrated that students assigned to smaller classes in K-3 do better in every measurable way.
  • Studies show that any reduction is class size increases the probability that students will be on-task and positively engaged in learning.
  • Numerous studies have shown that smaller classes are correlated with achievement gains and/or lower dropout rates in middle and upper grades as well as lower grades.

U.S. Dept. of Ed — Class Size Reduction Myths and Realities (below are a few highlights)

  • The advantages of attending a small class for four years, grades K-3, are equivalent to receiving an additional 6-14 months of schooling.
  • Characteristics of good teaching include the ability to communicate challenging content and provide hands-on learning experiences which smaller class sizes afford more opportunity to do.
  • Studies have shown that reducing class size can provide increased opportunities for teachers to teach better.
  • The cost of implementing smaller class sizes in elementary grades can be offset by the resulting decreases in grade retention, high school dropout rates, less need for remedial instruction, increased teacher satisfaction and retention.

A good overview piece on class size from Education Week

For more information, talking points and research on class size I encourage you to visit www.classsizematters.org.

Best,

Lu

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