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January 20, 2019, 22:55 GMT
By Associated Press
LOS ANGELES – Most educators and parents view class size as an indicator of quality education and have made it a priority in teacher strikes in the United States during the last year, but its effectiveness remains to be debated.
There is no universal standard for the best class, although some states and school districts have adopted policies, especially for the lower classes. Although many believe that smaller is better, studies are mixed on the extent to which this can improve educational outcomes, given the cost.
The proportion of students per teacher is at the heart of a teachers' strike in the country's second-largest school district, where tens of thousands of Los Angeles educators left on Monday. Teachers complained of having children sitting on window sills or on the floor of overcrowded classrooms that may exceed 45 students.
Further north, Oakland teachers have called Friday as a result of sick leave as part of an informal rally on their contract negotiations, which also partly rely on a request for a reduction the size of classes.
At the high school level, Los Angeles regularly had more students per teacher than the national average, said John Rogers, professor of education at the University of California at Los Angeles.
He said that there was no easy way to evaluate the impact of class size on school results over the last two decades in the school district unified Los Angeles – partly because classes were overcrowded despite the state's mandate demanding an average class of 30 students. through the eighth grade.
Rogers said that the question of whether districts should be able to unilaterally increase class size is important because it gives teachers the feeling that they lack control over learning conditions. .
"When your class size can be dramatically increased, you lose the ability to make sure the students you serve do well," Rogers said.
United Teachers Los Angeles is calling for the removal of a long-standing contractual term giving district authorities class size. If the district does not agree to remove this provision, union leaders say that they can not believe that school officials will ignore any deal that will reduce the size of the classes at the school. to come up.
The district has insisted on replacing it with new wording which also gives it the power to increase the number of students per class under certain conditions, especially in the case of financial emergency. He added that his latest contract offer provided $ 100 million to add nearly 1,000 additional teachers, nurses, counselors and librarians in 2019-20 and reduce the size of some classes. Schools with the greatest needs would benefit from larger discounts – about four students per class.
But union president, Alex Caputo-Pearl, said the district's offerings were limited to one year and that the number of students per class could still increase and that new employees could be cut. He described class size as a "fundamental problem" that directly concerns "the working conditions of educators".
Superintendent Austin Beutner said he would like to further reduce class size, but the district simply does not have the money. He suggested that the union consider exchanging other contractual demands to further reduce the size of the class.
Brent Smiley, a 23-year-old district veteran who teaches at the Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies, said he had up to 42 students in one class and the smallest student had 39 students.
"Struggling to keep them focused can be an impossible task," he said this week.
In a report published in 2016 by the National Education Policy Center, the number of students per class should not exceed 15 students and revealed that, other things being equal, the number of students influenced their school results.
William Mathis, author of the study as an expert in education policy at the University of Colorado, referred to a 1979 study that tracked young students into small classes of Tennessee and saw lasting effects. Children had better grades and test scores, fewer discipline problems and increased likelihood of going to college.
Earnings were twice as high for poor and minority students and they were so convincing that in 1998, President Bill Clinton imposed a $ 12 billion class size reduction program in Congress , despite the disparities between universities.
Mathis argues that smaller classes in the youngest classes work because teacher quality improves and increased attention helps children develop skills, such as creating peer groups and positive attitudes, necessary to progress towards more intense learning.
"The larger the class, the more likely you are to treat children as a large group, and you do not read the newspapers so carefully, you do not read them as carefully, you do not have as many d & rsquo; Pay attention to each child, "said Mathis about the quality of teachers.
But Matthew Chingos, vice president of the Center for Data and Education Policy at the Urban Institute, is skeptical about a universal approach. He studied the class size regulated by the state and said that it may not have been the "best value for money" for all classes.
Requiring a school to have more teachers is expensive and potentially problematic, he said, as it limits local control at the campus level, which can dilute the quality of teachers.
California tried to improve its reading and math scores between 1996 and 2013 with a program that gave extra money to schools if it reduced the number of students from kindergarten to grade three to 20.
According to Mr. Chingos, this experience has not been proven as there was no prior data for comparison purposes.
Without more high-quality research, Chingos said that parents and teachers advocated smaller classes, based largely on their intuition to think that it was better for children. Teachers also benefit, including by increasing the ranks of the unions, he said.
"Class size is a political winner.Nobody thinks it's bad.If money has grown on trees, then of course," said Chingos.