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Old 02-08-2010, 03:23 PM
 
Location: Yorktown Heights NY
1,316 posts, read 4,865,776 times
Reputation: 435

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Quote:
Originally Posted by SunnyT4 View Post
It would be helpful to readers if you would cite any references to that “large body of research” that supports your claims. I am skeptical after years of hearing educators use the phrase “research has shown” to defend practices based on flimsy or nonexistent evidence. As I previously wrote, the STAR research that found only minimal benefits for class sizes of 15 students has been found to be flawed and its findings have been contradicted by other studies, notably one by Hoxby that found no statistically significant effect of class size on student achievement.

As for what teachers think, I have heard some candidly admit that differentiated instruction is impractical. In our school severely developmentally delayed students, as well as other less disabled, are routinely placed in regular ed classes. This common practice, known as “inclusion”, has been encouraged by legal requirements that special ed students be educated in the “least restrictive environment”.

For small group instruction, many educators prefer mixed-ability groups, where “peer learning” is supposed to occur. In fact, that often means the faster learners are supposed to help teach the slower learners, and it’s just not what I want for my children.

The bottom line is that the concept of mixed ability, small classes promoted by the educational establishment is inefficient, costly and, most important, does not improve academic achievement. It does, however, create more jobs for teachers and could be just one example of how pouring more money into education has not correlated with better outcomes.
Hoxby's research is on economics and the cost of education programs--she is an economist and is not qualified to judge what improves academic achievement. Personally, the best study on what improves academic perfomance is Robert Pianta's ongoing project--this is not focussed on class size, but the impact of class size is a good part of what it is measuring. There are about 4,000 studies and reports on the impact of class size, almost all finding benefits. You can read about many on ERIC: ERIC – Education Resources Information Center - World’s largest digital library of education literature

Ask practically any teacher about the benefits of smaller classes and he/she will tell you that it makes it much easier to assess the children's abilities (and I'm not refering to useless tests but to meaningful ongoing observation and porftfolio assessment) and therefore much easier to address each child's needs. When teachers have larger classes, their only means of assesssing students' abilities is through standardized measures, which are generally pretty useless.

Inclusion generally refers to placing high-functioning kids with IEPS in the mainstream class, not "severely developmentally delayed" kids. In most schools, these students are placed in special ed classes.

As for small group instruction being ability-based or mixed, in my reading and experience the vast majority of educators prefer ability-based groupings. Peer mentoring is also critical, but there is plenty of time for that in the rest of class.
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Old 02-09-2010, 05:58 AM
 
21 posts, read 91,312 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dma1250 View Post
Hoxby's research is on economics and the cost of education programs--she is an economist and is not qualified to judge what improves academic achievement. Personally, the best study on what improves academic perfomance is Robert Pianta's ongoing project--this is not focussed on class size, but the impact of class size is a good part of what it is measuring. There are about 4,000 studies and reports on the impact of class size, almost all finding benefits. You can read about many on ERIC: ERIC – Education Resources Information Center - World’s largest digital library of education literature
I disagree that Hoxby is unqualified to conduct rigorous educational research, but if you believe that Pianta’s study is the best on understanding what improves academic achievement, then you should know what he has found:
Interestingly, the [Pianta’s] study found that factors traditionally thought to influence quality, such as class size and teacher credentials, had little influence on classroom quality. Untitled Document (http://newswire.ascribe.org/cgi-bin/behold.pl?ascribeid=20090219.103652&time=11%2026%2 0PST&year=2009&public=0 - broken link)
And by simply providing a link to a vast database of education research, you did not convince me that that smaller class size is better when I know of specific research that shows otherwise.

Your vague arguments are similar to what I’ve encountered from educators trying to convince me that raising taxes to astronomical rates will be better “for the children’. Sorry, but I’m not buying it.

I understand that smaller class sizes have traditionally been viewed as one of the most important indicators of educational excellence, but I hope taxpayers are beginning to see through that ruse.
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Old 02-09-2010, 07:13 AM
 
Location: Yorktown Heights NY
1,316 posts, read 4,865,776 times
Reputation: 435
I Have read Pianta's work and heard Pianta speak on his findings a few times, and he is very much a proponent of smaller class sizes. His study has found that it is a critical aspect of improving the quality of education. One of the keys, he has found, is allowing teachers the time to observe and work with small groups of children. And guess what--that is much easier to do in a smaller class.

Mod cut

Last edited by Viralmd; 02-09-2010 at 11:22 AM.. Reason: Personal attack.
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Old 02-09-2010, 09:52 AM
 
Location: Bronxville, NY
58 posts, read 217,870 times
Reputation: 47
SunnyT is correct that while there is some evidence favoring smaller class sizes, it's hardly the cure-all some make it out to be. I am extremely dubious that increasing mean class size by a few would produce dramatic changes in student performance when controlling for other institutional factors.

Even still, it does seem like this thread puts a lot of emphasis on one institutional factor. The initial poster is choosing between a number of excellent school districts. I doubt mean class size will differentiate much between them. More important is how well you encourage your children to become motivated learners, and to think critically about issues in society. To a large extent, that comes from your own example.
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Old 02-09-2010, 10:15 AM
 
Location: Yorktown Heights NY
1,316 posts, read 4,865,776 times
Reputation: 435
Quote:
Originally Posted by PresidentJoeMorgan View Post
SunnyT is correct that while there is some evidence favoring smaller class sizes, it's hardly the cure-all some make it out to be. I am extremely dubious that increasing mean class size by a few would produce dramatic changes in student performance when controlling for other institutional factors.

Even still, it does seem like this thread puts a lot of emphasis on one institutional factor. The initial poster is choosing between a number of excellent school districts. I doubt mean class size will differentiate much between them. More important is how well you encourage your children to become motivated learners, and to think critically about issues in society. To a large extent, that comes from your own example.
I never said that small class size was a "cure-all." It isn't at all. You need a number of things to provide quality education--one of which is smaller class size. The fact is that smaller class size is a key ingredient--one of many--without which it is dramatically harder to provide students with what they need.

When you're looking at school districts, class-size is one of the most important things you need to look at--but you also need to look at teacher/student ratio, amount spent per pupil, the specific grade-level curriculum, and a host of other factors that are equally critical. Increasing class size from 20 to 25 can indeed have a dramatic negative effect on the educaton students are receiving.

I don't think that SunnyT is saying that class size is not a magic cure-all. If she is, I agree with her. I believe she is saying that class size is irrelevant to the quality of education and is basically a ruse used to waste taxpayer dollars. And that I totally disagree with.

And on that note, I'm leaving this post, since I feel myself being drawn into one of thos tit-for-tats that go one forever.
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Old 02-09-2010, 03:06 PM
 
Location: Harrison
835 posts, read 2,215,438 times
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I don't think that you can say that if all classes were 20 students or less, the quality of instruction would go up. The fact is, there are wonderful teachers out there with fantastic classroom management and for them, 25 kids or 22 kids, it makes no difference. There are however teachers out there for whom the difference between 20 and 25+ kids will make a big difference. It all depends on style and management technique.

Having said that, at my old school in the city one year I had 18 kids and it was MARVELOUS. Wow, the things you can do with a class that size... Unfortunately, two years later I had 32 kids and it was awful. I had to be so strict with expectations and getting around to each kid was difficult. Now, I don't think there are any school districts in Westchester that would allow that many kids in one class, but my point is that every teacher will tell you that having a smaller class is more desirable. That may not translate into improved test scores because quite frankly, that is about the kids too (the part of the equation people forget about when talking about teacher evaluation) but it does result in much more satisfaction, happiness, and less stress for the teacher and in turn, the students.
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Old 02-10-2010, 05:15 AM
 
21 posts, read 91,312 times
Reputation: 15
Contrary to what another poster has written, I did not claim “class size is irrelevant to the quality of education”. I simply pointed out that that I agree with Pianta and other researchers who have found that class size has little influence on .classroom quality.

Since there is no sound evidence showing that an arbitrary number of pupils in a classroom is critical to student achievement, increasing class size from 22 to 27 is unlikely to have a significant negative impact on learning. Additionally, if the increase were combined with a change to flexible ability grouping, it would probably increase academic achievement and be a more efficient use of our tax dollars.
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Old 02-10-2010, 06:57 AM
 
28 posts, read 111,027 times
Reputation: 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by dma1250 View Post

No schools in Westchester that I know of have "severely developmentally delayed" students in the regular ed class. Those students are in specific special education classes. ."
Lots of school districts have severely developmentally delayed students included within the regular education classroom. The practice is called "inclusion". Chappaqua is very big on inclusion. Ardsley does it as well. Pleasantville also does it. I'm sure there are more examples of fine Westchester school districts that use inclusion.
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Old 02-10-2010, 07:49 AM
 
Location: Yorktown Heights NY
1,316 posts, read 4,865,776 times
Reputation: 435
Quote:
Originally Posted by MomtoA View Post
Lots of school districts have severely developmentally delayed students included within the regular education classroom. The practice is called "inclusion". Chappaqua is very big on inclusion. Ardsley does it as well. Pleasantville also does it. I'm sure there are more examples of fine Westchester school districts that use inclusion.
To my knowledge, Chappaqua places "severely developmentally delayed" children in inclusion classes with a special ed teacher and a regular ed teacher. These are not the "regular" classes, which have only regular-ed and high-functioning special needs students or, on occasion, special needs students with personal aides to assist them. I believe the other schools you mentioned have similar arrangements in which the severely delayed students are in special classes of some sort. But maybe that has changed... Almost all schools have inclusion of some sort--it is very much the norm. But it is also a term that can be used to describe a huge range of set ups and classroom types.

Since I promised not to respond to SunnyT and the small-class issue, I won't--but controlling myself may give me an ulcer! I will say that perhaps SunnyT would like to read Pianta's research before referencing him again, as I think she will be surprised.
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Old 02-10-2010, 01:57 PM
 
4 posts, read 18,151 times
Reputation: 12
In the meantime, I was hoping to hear from moms and/or dads who have elementary school children in the school districts that I had mentioned, to tell me how many kids there are in their child's classes right now. Only PEmom provided me with the number in Pleasantville. I would appreciate it if you can provide me with this information. I am not looking for information whether having more or less kids in the classrooms make a difference in the quality of education. Thank you in advance.
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