about nashville

The False Promise of Class Size Reduction . . . Or Not.

In a year where MNPS is increasing average class size to the maximum allowed by State law and in a year where our Governor states with confidence that “[m]ost studies have shown that class size is not as direct a relationship to achievement as people have thought in the past, that having a great teacher with 25 students is better than having a mediocre teacher with 18 students,” it’s interesting to see the benefits of class size reductions the subject of much debate.

Are the promoted benefits of class size reduction false promises or is it not so clear?

One statement from the Brookings report that made sense to me is :

“[A]n even better approach would be to let individual schools use small classes as
a response to very specific circumstances. An individual principal may decide, for
example, that a smaller class makes sense for an inexperienced teacher who needs
support in developing skills managing a classroom with several students with
behavior problems. At the same time, the principal may want to assign a larger
class to a highly effective veteran teacher, perhaps with some extra pay to compensate
the teacher for the extra work required. Of course, principals would need to
be given the flexibility to make such carefully considered arrangements.
These sorts of efficiency-enhancing decisions should not be limited to innovative
principals acting on their own, but should be enabled and encouraged at the
district level.”

Maybe MNPS had no other option than to lay off teachers – I have no reason to dispute that.  But has the district thought about approaching the impending class size increases in a heterogeneous, site specific way or not?  Anyone know?


One response to this post from a local educator stated in part:

“There is no widely accepted consensus in the research about the impact of class size and student outcome. There are great examples of good teachers with big classes and great examples of very small classes. But, there’s also no widely accepted consensus on how to measure student outcome or teacher effectiveness, so…

That said, despite rhetoric to the contrary, MNPS doesn’t seem to offering more than lip-service to individualization at the school-level, the kind that would be required to allow the flexibility you suggest. There is increasing centralization of decision-making, even more so than we had in the previous administration. There is  good research to criticize that model and to support the link between well-trained teachers with the authority to do their jobs well and healthy schools.”

Without any media in town interested in watch-dogging this issue and no organized education group willing to confront MNPS, how’s this likely to change?



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