Smaller classes benefit the most needy students


In summary

Critics underestimate the importance of reducing class sizes because they fail to understand the challenges of our profession. Hiring teachers and other professionals to help students directly serves students.

By Glenn Sacks, Special for CalMatters

Glenn Sacks teaches social studies and represents United Teachers Los Angeles at James Monroe High School in the Unified School District of Los Angeles, [email protected]

The Unified School District of Los Angeles receive $ 4.7 billion additional federal funds and have wide latitude in deciding how to spend them. United Teachers Los Angeles believes the district’s priority should be to reduce class sizes and expand student services.

Opponents use our priorities to portray the union as selfish and disinterested in the welfare of students. For example, education author Lance Izumi, who helped shape education policy under President Trump, criticizes teacher unions – and United Teachers Los Angeles in particular – for wanting districts to hire more teachers and non-teaching staff, explaining that it is “money, not for the students, of course, but for the adults at the within the system ”.

Chantal Lovell, director of communications for the California Policy Center, says what we want is “more closely related to an increase in the union budget than to better outcomes for students” and that our union’s budget priorities are designed to “Fill their pockets”.

How best to spend the money is a legitimate question to be debated, but what Izumi, Lovell, and other critics fail to understand is that hiring teachers and other professionals to help students serves the purpose. directly to the students. A music department is not successful because of the strings of its cellos. A sports program is not successful because of its gym equipment.

Reducing class sizes has long been a union priority, and the Los Angeles School District, to its credit, has decided to reduce class sizes by hiring more than 1,000 additional teachers for the 2021-2022 school year. .

Reviews indicate studies claiming to show little or no connection between class size and student performance. Northwestern University economist Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, a leading education scholar, calls such claims the result “poor quality studies.”

In a report from the National Education Policy Center, she found that small classes are particularly effective increase the achievement levels of low-income and minority children, and that these students are most affected by increasing class sizes. This is directly linked to the Los Angeles School District – even before the economic disruption of the pandemic, 76% of its students were living in poverty and 90% are in the minority.

Critics underestimate the importance of reducing class sizes because they fail to understand the challenges of our profession. A teacher should have all students on the task at all times all day, every day. This is much easier to do with 26 children than with 36. We seek to challenge students by giving them open-response essays and tests rather than multiple-choice exams. Whether a teacher reads 145 or 185 articles makes a big difference. The greater the grading load, the less time we have for our students.

Before the 2019 Los Angeles teachers’ strike, California ranked among the bottom in class size nationwide, and class size reduction was one of the biggest gains in strike. The reductions we got have allowed us to do our job better.

Our union is fostering a strong renaissance in music, theater, art, physical education and athletics, all of which have been difficult to teach through distance education. When we return to school, these programs can play an important role in motivating students, reconnecting them with their schools and peers, and returning to a healthier lifestyle.

Izumi points to the problem of “endemic mental health problems in children trapped at home,” and Lovell notes the “emotional anguish” of the students. They are right – many teachers have watched students cope with the loss of family members.

Two of my students’ fathers died from COVID-19, and many students have lost grandparents they lived with or near. Additionally, the quarantine increased conflict between children and their parents, and between spouses, at a time when students were largely separated from their friends and support systems.

Smaller classrooms so that each student can benefit from more attention and assistance from their teacher, more mental health services for students in need, expansion of music, drama, art programs and sports – these are our goals, and they require the hiring of professionals to provide these services. How could such an increase not be beneficial for children?

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Glenn Sacks previously wrote about The story of D-Day in the textbooks, reopening of schools and the the effect of the pandemic on schools.


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