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What's the Big Deal With Bigger Class Sizes?

What's the big deal over sticking kids in classes that are 40 percent larger than just two years ago?

By now, you’ve probably heard of the plan to once again

The Board of Trustees' unanimous decision was driven by economics, not student need. Placing 28 children in each class will save $415,000 over the current ratio of 25 children to 1 teacher. (Two years ago, our youngest learners enjoyed a 20 to 1 ratio.)

So what’s the big deal over sticking kids in classes that are 40 percent larger than just two years ago?

Children deserve individual attention every day. My daughter Chloe isn’t a robot, she’s a unique little person who thrives on personal recognition and individuality. I want her first experiences with school to be the most amazing experiences possible — ones that encourage her innate love of learning, human interaction and personal growth.

Even the Founding Fathers enshrined individual liberty repeatedly in the Bill of Rights; the importance of individuals has been a feature of American government for centuries.

Individual attention also matters for academic achievement, because today’s Kindergarten curriculum was everybody else’s first grade experience. Academic standards are much higher than 20 years ago.

“With class sizes at 25 to 1, I already have trouble meeting all of my student’s needs,” says one of my friends, Candice, a first-grade teacher at . “With an additional three students, I know that every student’s needs will not be met. We can only do so much in one day.”

The English language standards for Kindergarten alone are five pages long. Let me give you a sample:

Phonemic Awareness
1.7 Track (move sequentially from sound to sound) and represent the number, sameness/ difference, and order of two and three isolated phonemes (e.g., /f, s, th/, /j, d, j/).
1.8 Track (move sequentially from sound to sound) and represent changes in simple syllables and words with two and three sounds as one sound is added, substituted, omitted, shifted, or repeated (e.g., vowel-consonant, consonant-vowel, or consonant-vowel-consonant).
1.9 Blend vowel-consonant sounds orally to make words or syllables.
1.10 Identify and produce rhyming words in response to an oral prompt.
1.11 Distinguish orally stated one-syllable words and separate into beginning or ending sounds.
1.12 Track auditorily each word in a sentence and each syllable in a word.
1.13 Count the number of sounds in syllables and syllables in words.

Teachers like Candice are already putting in a 110-percent effort every day. So when you add more children to their classes, just working longer hours isn’t an option. Something gets cut: a weekly story on the rug (in order to perform three more individual reading tests), a field trip to the museum (to shift planning time to three more parent conferences) or a more personal connection with every child.

Castro Valley prides itself on excellent schools. Our schools are a testament to the hard work of families, students and educators to develop a culture of success. So it’s a big deal when the School Board votes to further dismantle one of the key programs that benefit every child when they’re just getting their start in public education.

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Thomas Clarke April 12, 2012 at 12:26 AM
Jaimie, so let us assume that you and your union representative are letting the principal and school board know where they should be allocating and cutting from. I am sure that you are doing well with your math teaching. Your English grammar is still in need of lots of attention. I suspect you may have to repeat that part of your credential. "it's became about politics." Teaching is not at all like playing chess. It sounds to me like you are still struggling with your profession. It is good that you are not reaching out to the five and six year olds. Do insist though that you do not pass on students who fail your classes and exams. You do not do them a favor.
Jaimie DeWitt April 12, 2012 at 05:10 AM
Thank you for your comments Mr. Clarke. I would love to visit your classroom sometime. I believe we can never stop learning!
Thomas Clarke April 12, 2012 at 04:42 PM
Jaimie, although you may not subscribe to Twentieth Century American History, and I am sure H.L. Mencken gets no notice at Dublin High School, you might want to consider the old chestnut, "Those who can do. Those who can't, teach." My ashram is open to you if you care to give up all hope and enter. I am pleased that you are open to continuous learning. You did not answer my challenge to enumerate where the cuts should start and where the support should be reallocated. That may in fact be because you do not actually know or care. You have an opinion like so many others without much experience or skill in making it happen. Good luck to you though.
Carol Ojeda Caploe April 21, 2012 at 04:31 PM
"Word" to all of my colleagues in education and to our amazing families who advocate the best in academic and social/emotional growth for our children. Here's to our Word!
Excibe Schinist August 16, 2012 at 12:59 AM
I fail to see how more teachers can help our educational system. It's archaic, inefficient, and isn't getting it done. Instead of spending money on more teachers, why not use some of that money and invest in ways we can use technology to streamline, and modernize education. Is the school district aware that the internet is out there? We should be increasing class sizes, laying off ordinary teachers, and have a few regional teachers who teach the vast majority of kids in their districts. Stream lectures from the web, there are already supplemental educational videos out there like Khan Academy, which is absolutely free! Get rid of teachers, books. Licenses can be arranged for digital content. Most professionals don't even deal with paper, neither should kids. It's time to be more efficient with the funds we already have. Sadly the government remains bloated, corrupt, and behind the times.

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