For anyone who says that class size does not matter, I say to them…
Well, this is a civil conversation so I’ll bite my tongue. But come on, in the rush to hoist the notion of “teacher quality” to the top of the educational flagpole, we are allowing ourselves to pretend truthful things are not really truths.
And one truthful thing is that class size does matter. A lot.
Here’s an article from the Los Angeles Times about how some classes at Fairfax High School have 50 students crammed into classrooms built for 30. When kids sit on the floor, on filing cabinets, and the such, is anyone really going to say that “teacher quality” trumps all other factors when it comes to successfully educating students? My second period class this year has 43 kids while I only have 34 desks. (I do have some chairs however and right now, no one is sitting on the floor.) But am I the same teacher I am in my 8th period class where there are only 29 students on the roster?
The answer is, I try to be but no, it saddens me that I am not. I believe I am a better teacher in the class where there are less students.
Why? (Like you have to ask.) Because at a certain point the volume becomes unmanageable to individualize and attend to the unique needs of all students. With 29 it’s hard. With 35 it’s threshold. With 43, it’s approaching ludicrous. I get spread too thin and they get less and less and less of me. And with 50, as they cite in the article mentioned above where kids are sitting on the floor, let’s be honest, those kids are being short-changed.
And so is the teacher. And so is the school. And so is the community. And so is our country. Do kids have to sit on the floor for us to recognize that we are heading towards rock bottom?