If you ever want to start a near brawl in the teacher workroom nearest you, walk in and casually drop the following line: There is no question that single-minded efforts to reduce class sizes are flawed and are limiting how successful schools can be.
And needless to say the piece started a digital brawl! It received over 3,500 page views–ranking as the most viewed piece on the TM site for days–and elicited dozens of comments from educators who seem to think that I’ve completely lost my mind! Consider the following examples:
The teacher/student relationship cannot be of any reasonable nature with more the 20 or so students per class. To say otherwise is just plain foolish.
As far as I’m concerned, anyone who thinks that smaller class sizes would not benefit the disadvantaged child has either never taught in a setting like that or has got a screw loose. Take your pick!
To say that class size reduction must be accompanied by other reforms like hiring and retaining qualified teachers, etc. is a fairly obvious and somewhat boneheaded statement. Mr. Ferriter seems to be characterizing the move as a bad decision that will only further worsen educational quality. It sounds like he wrote this article merely to create discussion about himself–and, oh look!–he has.
Why are you trying to make this a black and white issue in this manner? If you want to discuss the money behind this, compare a small class to a large class; if you want to compare the relationship and achievement of students, compare both. But don’t pretend that one side has all the logic. What a poorly presented idea.
And my personal favorite:
What a silly article this is. The tag seems to be about a pedagogical debate, then it quickly devolves into something completely different. It’s like a bait-and -switch advertising scheme, and it made me disappointed that I even read it because I thought I was going to see some thoughtful commentary on class size. Instead, I got politics. Reminds me of the morale-deflating bean-counter discussions that happen at my school. Pedagogy comes in second, as usual. Oh well.
What have I learned after strapping a bulls-eye to my chest and daring to argue that class size reductions may be poorly planned decisions (read: quick and popular) that can harm students and create new challenges for education?
That many teachers struggle to think beyond their own classrooms. This commitment to our own situations is good for the students in our care, but limits our ability to have influence on education at a broader level. Our belief that "our reality is right" serves as a barrier, limiting our understanding of district, state and national policy decisions.
So what do you think? Does the hard-won, intimate knowledge that teachers possess about their own classrooms easily translate to understandings that can inform and educate policymakers? Or do our experiences prevent us from seeing beyond what it is that we understand as individuals?
How about this provocative thought: Is the perspective possessed by those who are removed from the classroom essential for making effective decisions for systems serving thousands of children? Does leaving the classroom allow one to finally see—as my least favorite principal of all time used to say—"the bigger picture?"
If so, how can we gain perspective and stay in the classroom at the same time?