Class size has always been an issue in New York City public schools. For as long as teachers have had advocacy groups, they have been advocating for more resources, smaller class sizes and more personal attention given to students. “Falling through the cracks” has always been the credo, and class sizes in NYC have actually been falling more in line with New York state numbers. Unfortunately, it looks like class sizes for the 2010-2011 NYC school year are back on the rise, despite promises to the contrary. How can we stop this class ballooning, short of stopping all school-aged kids at the city borders? What’s being done to ensure no child is left behind?
According to nycpublicschoolparents.blogspot.com, it appears as though schools Chancellor Joel Klein and Mayor Mike Bloomberg keep talking about the need to shrink class sizes even though they don’t plan to make that happen. A press conference in September 2010 quotes Klein as saying, “I wish I could hire you. Our kids need it – lower class sizes and young, enthusiastic teachers,” in response to a question from a recently graduated elementary education major and Iraq War veteran. But, as the piece goes on to explain, Klein and Bloomberg have no intention of keeping any promises about smaller class sizes.
“The city received $200 million in federal funds this summer specifically meant to hire more teachers for the 2010-2011 school year … and yet the administration wants to hold onto these funds until the following year,” the blog says. All this “despite the fact they are anticipating a loss of 2,000 teaching positions and an increase in at least 18,000 students this fall.” With fewer teachers and more students, these numbers don’t support a fall of any kind in class sizes. Bloomberg has been successful thus far in lowering class sizes, but nothing good goes on forever.
So, what do larger class sizes mean? All one need to do is look at the introduction to the Class Size Matters Facebook page, a page for a “non-profit, non-partisan clearinghouse for information on class size and the proven benefits of smaller classes,” and you’ll understand why everyone generally agrees that class sizes dictate a measurable degree of success in kids educations:
Class Size Matters reports, “In addition to higher student achievement and lower dropout rates, smaller classes have been linked to a host of other benefits, including reduced teacher attrition, lower rates of disciplinary referrals and school violence, more student engagement, and greater parental involvement.”
People can’t argue with the facts, try as they like. As nycpublicschoolparents.blogspot.com reports, “The DOE has misused hundreds of millions of dollars in state funds meant for class size reduction.” If Bloomberg doesn’t want to leave behind a legacy of financial recklessness, he should probably make sure that this misappropriation doesn’t happen.
Klein, Bloomberg, New York City schoolteachers, schoolchildren, parents and experts all generally agree: smaller class sizes are the way to go. So, why is there this logjam in making funds available, hiring the teachers who want to teach and reimagining our classrooms the way we need to? One of the anonymous comments on nycpublicschoolparents.blogspot.com said it fairly succinctly: “It is very sad that the Bloomberg and Klein team have no idea how foolish they look … What a disaster they have created in the once proud NYC school system.”
Reporting for insideschools.org, Laura Zingmond is a little more optimistic, saying that many parents “are first learning the extent to which classes, programs and services have been slashed at their children’s schools as a result of the latest round of budget cuts.” When their kids come home with horror stories from these same classrooms, sparents will be brought up to speed rather quickly.
Class sizes are everyone’s problem: parents, students, officials, teachers and society at large. Larger class sizes keep kids in school longer than they should be or, worse, put them out on the streets, where they are introduced to all the influences we strive to keep out of the schools. With the right attention paid and the proper resources dedicated, class sizes can come down, teachers can teach, children can learn and New York City can continue to be the beautiful place it has always been.