I’ve worked in the field of education for 13 years, and have listened closely to the frustrations of teachers, aides, administrators and district officials. I’ve made it my business to stay abreast of new issues within the education system, but somehow I managed to miss the fact that this school year would bring one major change to California classrooms — HUGELY inflated class sizes.
My understanding, based on reading a number of different articles on the topic is as follows (feel free to correct me if I have any of this wrong — I’m summarizing and making a few inferences here)… essentially, prior mandates that required reduced class sizes are no longer in place, as No Child Left Behind legislation has mostly expired. The class size reduction mandates can now be avoided with a school waiver stating financial tough times as a reason for increased class sizes, and the waivers seem to be readily approved.
I was surprised to hear there would be as many as 26 students in my son’s kindergarten class, and that there would be no aide to assist the teacher. When I was in kindergarten (yes, I realize, this was a few moons ago) I believe there were fewer than 20 students and we had an aide in class daily. Now, my son’s teacher will be relying heavily upon parent volunteerism in order to ensure she can maximize activities for students at their “centers” (stations). However, with today’s tough economic climate, schools are not the only ones making tough choices — more families require the income of both parents to cover expenses, meaning fewer available parent volunteers. It’s a circular problem really.
As surprised as I was about the 26 kindergarteners, imagine my shock when I heard my friend’s son, just a district over, would have just under 35 students in his kindergarten class, also with no aide. I can’t even imagine how challenging it must be to provide a quality education to 35 children, each just five-years old and in school for the first time. I’ve had the honor of managing large groups of students many, many times in my career, but to run activities, events and tutorials, not teach the fundamentals of reading and math. I can’t imagine doing that for 35 individual learners at the very start of their educational career, all by myself.
Further research revealed this year also brings elementary classes up to 40 students in size, and some high school classes potentially holding up to 52 students (!). I’m not sure how often these numbers with be actuated, however it appears with the waiver — if you can justify the financial need and appropriate classroom space (as in actual, physical space) — former, logical class size caps simply hold no weight.
I’m doing my best here to avoid standing on my soapbox too much, but I can’t possibly imagine bloated class sizes will be of benefit to ANY student or teacher. The state of education in the Golden State is very bleak these days. I have nothing but respect for those amazing folks continuing to fight on, trudge through and dedicate themselves to their students under nearly impossible conditions. I promise to help out in class anyway I can and strongly urge any parent, grandparent or caring community member to rally behind our educators and do the same.
[featured images via of thefutureisnowhere & flatheadbeacon]