Class size does matter when you are trying to meet the needs of children – any teacher can tell you that. I know there is research that says it really doesn’t make a difference, but when you are trying to build a relationship with students experiencing trauma and trying to meet a variety of student needs – it really does matter. The sad thing is sometimes it is our own school leadership that allows or even perpetuates large class sizes. Some leaders have the power to make class sizes smaller. So why do leaders make decisions that allow teachers in their buildings to have 30 students… For example, leadership might tell you it’s because of the grant… But who wrote the grant? Believe me - the state has many things that need to be fixed when it comes to education. But our own systems sometimes set us up for failure.
When you have a school that has classroom teachers that have 30 students in elementary grades or even 25 students in primary grades and you have at least 3 interventionists & at least 3 ESL teachers, you really need to think about what is best for kids. Today in education we have another crisis – it is the fragmentation crisis. This is where we move young, elementary students from teacher to teacher all in the name of intervention. We hand teachers schedules because this is when the interventionists and ESL teachers can assist in the classroom (not their fault – it’s the system). The flow of instruction is lost. No longer can we fit science & social studies into the school day or it is a 10 minute block… (This is another problem for our schools and our world). I argue that this may not be the best intervention when you have large class sizes. Actually the teacher – student ratio will look very good on paper because they include those intervention/ESL teachers in the teacher to student ratio. Again, I just put it out there – is this the very best way to provide quality classroom instruction? And yes, I do value interventionists and ESL teachers. I believe they can be an important part of helping kids – but what is the best way to use them?
I was once told – “if there is a problem, try to come up with a possible solution to share.” So here is the possible solution. When leadership writes grants for intervention or when they decide how to use intervention strategies, etc. -instead of fragmentation, consider how to provide the most consistent, efficient and quality instruction possible. I believe that comes down to the classroom teacher. So one possible solution would be to take some of those excellent and wonderful interventionists and ESL teachers and put them in the classroom to reduce class sizes for the other teachers in your building. Try to keep one interventionist and one ESL teacher to oversee problems and to be of help to staff. Then PD that is provided is geared to helping the classroom teacher “intervene”. The teacher will better be able to do that with the smaller class size. You still have the interventionist and ESL teacher for teachers who might need additional guidance and support. I’m sure there are other ways that could be considered.
We have automatically gone to this pull out and push in model that fragments students and instruction. It may even separate students by race, and takes them away from being with and learning from peers. We think the general education teachers are not knowledgeable enough to meet the needs of their own students. Shame on us if that is the case. Some do actually believe this fragmentation is the best way to “intervene” and have closed themselves off to other ideas and ways of doing things.
At the very least instead of leadership saying this is how it will be done to satisfy the grant and to satisfy remediation requirements – ask teachers what they would prefer, smaller class sizes or fragmentation? Ask teachers what PD they would need to meet the needs of their student population. Don’t just ask your select few. Make sure leadership opens discussion & suggestions to all teachers. Write the grant in such a way as to show that this non-fragmentation will meet the needs of the students and teachers. The grant will provide one interventionist & ESL teacher. The grant will provide training to classroom teachers to meet the needs of the students and grant requirements. The grant will provide smaller class sizes so that the teacher can include small group remediation…
I realize that some will hate my suggestion. That’s okay. What is your suggestion? There has to be something better than fragmentation and large class sizes especially when leadership has the power to make class sizes smaller. Within our own systems, when we have the power to make things better, we need to consider carefully what is best for kids.
Put kids first.