Interesting things you find on Twitter. Libby Quaid, one of the top education journalists for Associated Press, tweeted today about responses to her July 31st article on classroom size.
I read the comments, then her article. Sorry to say, same old "chicken and egg" problem we're discussing here. I had to pop over to www.eduwonk.com and leave a comment on what's REALLY going on here.
The argument essentially goes like this: teachers need smaller classroom sizes so that they can be more effective in the classroom. Rumor has it (and you can find studies on both sides of the argument), that smaller classrooms=more individualized attention=better outcomes for all students.
The flip side says that classroom size is less important than effective teachers. Ok, but how do you "create" or "build" more effective teachers?
But, I have a third side of the coin that it seems people aren't considering: the impact of too many students who lack adequate social skills, character and values development that allows them to operate effectively in the classroom environment.
This has a negative impact on EVERY single aspect of the learning environment.
It doesn't matter if you have a classroom size of 20/25/30 -- even a few kids who are unruly and disruptive, who lack respect and consideration for the needs of others, can ruin the learning experience for ALL.
"Individualized instruction" isn't going to happen unless you homeschool. There will be times in any classroom where a "group" has to operate together, or independently, while other things go on -- teacher spends a little more time with one student working on a difficult concept or task, for example. What does the rest of the class do at that time? Right now: generally they get into trouble or at best, off task.
The reality is, we will NEVER be able to reduce class sizes to the point of educational nirvana. Smaller classrooms means more classrooms, means more teachers, means more schools, means more administrators, ad nauseum. On the other hand, if, as statisitics show, our teachers today are losing 30/40/50% of productive classroom time dealing with disruptive students, this IS something we have a chance of dealing with. We're already wasting a significant portion of our educational dollars by not dealing with classroom disruption/discipline/bullying, etc. Before we stand out there asking for MORE money, more teachers, more classrooms, how 'bout we improve the effectiveness of what we DO have?
It's not about reducing class sizes to the point where they are "manageable" -- it's about managing the classrooms sizes we have. With an emphasis on social skills education and discipline in the schools, we can improve the learning opportunities for everyone involved. That's not only penny-wise, it's pound-effective and we'd be surprised how many other things get better at the same time.