Posts Tagged ‘
class size ’
Storm Siegel grew up in Portland, Oregon, and moved to New York City to attend college at New York University, where he majored in music. He then began teaching at middle schools in Manhattan and Brooklyn, New York. He has taught social studies, science, and reading in schools aimed at improving education for urban youth. He is currently taking classes to obtain his M. Ed. at Fordham University.
I fell into the teaching profession in a bizarre manner. During my senior year in college the impending reality of post-collegiate life was quickly approaching. I was a music major as an undergraduate, and at the time I decided I would only look at jobs that would allow me to work with kids. I figured I would find a reasonable confluence of my skill set and job-hopes by teaching music in a middle-school setting. I was fortunate to find a school that took me in as a volunteer music teacher once a week. I greatly enjoyed the process of working with kids, and landed a job at a middle school that the principal I was working under was moving to the following year. (more…)
I’m worried that the recession will never end for children in our Oregon public schools. The crisis will be declared over and the general public will have adjusted to larger class sizes and fewer programs. We’ll continue with classes near the largest in the country and wonder why our children still aren’t outperforming kids in countries that invest more in education.
Two years ago I had a class of 23 fourth graders. Even with that number of students I felt that if I had fewer students I could have personalized instruction more and seen better growth. After all, many private schools have 15-20 kids per classroom. Last year, with a 22% reduction in my district’s teaching staff, I had 38 students. This year I have 32. When I took my class on a field trip this year, the district bus driver noted how nice and small my class was. Yes, 32 students is now considered to be a small class.
With the instructional expectations of today, there can no longer be a debate about the value of fewer kids per teacher. Many of the best practices that train kids for a high tech world are not possible with many students. Individual writers’ conferences are recommended for teaching writing; small group skill-based instruction leads to success; making special connections with students is important. We need to listen to kids talk through their thinking and coax them to think at a higher level. We need to give kids time to discover and express themselves as they create their own meaning. All of this takes time and attention. (more…)
There are some very inspirational leaders in the education profession. These are the people who seem to have the capacity to view the big picture and articulate so clearly what they see and hear. Linda Nathan, headmaster of Boston Arts Academy, author, and Harvard instructor in democratic schools, is such a leader.
Linda came to Oregon in May as the keynote speaker at the Oregon Small Schools Leadership Institute in Ashland. The theme of the one day Institute, led by E3 Small Schools Director Kathy Campobasso, was “moving forward.” Linda spoke with rich and vivid examples on the importance of leadership with a strong and clear vision and about the complexities of sustaining the work of personalizing education through the power of small. Principals, teacher leaders, teachers, superintendents, and board members from 22 small high schools participated in a variety of break-out sessions. They shared outstanding practices that are happening in their schools and celebrated the positive results.
Students from southern Oregon small schools presented a panel on their small high school experiences. The concluding forum was presented by Duncan Wyse, Executive Director of E3, Barbara Gibbs of Meyer Memorial Trust, and Linda Nathan on the importance and challenges of moving forward with positive school change on the state and national level. All were inspirational!
As the 2010-2011 school year begins in earnest, parents and students have probably noticed a few things. Students probably have larger classes or maybe fewer class offerings. Parents are noticing the shortened school year and feeling the more urgent need for volunteers. Most likely they’ve had to dig a little deeper to pay activity fees for school sports or to take that field trip to the beach.
A quick search of the Oregon Live website found over 147 items posted on our schools and the budget cuts in the last two weeks – over 21 postings a day. But the fact is that most Oregonians don’t know much about their district’s budget or where the dollars go, which makes it difficult to know what it really means for the school down the street when reading an article about cuts to a K-12 budget of over $5 billion.
The Open Books Project, an easy-to-use website with information on state and district-level finances, student achievement, and student and teacher demographics, is designed to help Oregonians learn more about the budgets, graduation rates, and student-teacher ratios in their school district and districts across the state.
Last week, Open Books added a section that offers a deeper look at five Oregon school districts, how they’ve been affected by budget cuts and what they are doing to hold their students as harmless as possible in the coming year. Beaverton, Eugene, Salem, Sherwood, and Springfield school districts answered the following questions:
- Are you cutting any full-time employees (FTEs)? If so, how many?
- What is your average class size for the coming year and how does that compare to the last school year or your historical average?
- Has collective bargaining been affected for 2010-11 school year?
- Are you using any type of reserve in your 2010-11 budget?
- What measures has the district taken to meet the needs of the students? Tell us your story in a few sentences.
Visit www.openbooksproject.org to find out more and encourage your district to share their story with us.
The release of the latest economic forecast nearly two weeks ago has brought back mixed feelings. While we all share in a sense of despair, knowing the depth of hardship experienced by many current Oregonians in all walks of life, I am reliving some of the emotions I felt during our last statewide crisis.
In the late summer of 2003, I was the principal of West Albany High School. At that time, I was tasked with reducing seven teaching positions, while our enrollment increased by more than eighty students.
The loss of seven positions meant the elimination of forty-two class period offerings for our 1250 students. Reductions hit administrative and classified ranks as well. As a large professional team, we hunkered down and did the best we could. As one would expect, it was an incredibly tough school year.
Looking back, I am still awed by the collective shared resolve of our professional staff. I am still proud of our students and their resilience. We recognized we were in a difficult journey together, and we survived. While the quality of the educational experience was greatly diminished, I am convinced we strengthened relationships.
As I reflect on my leadership, however, I am haunted by one decision that still pains me: I eliminated our professional development budget. (more…)
A number of you responded to our poll on the influence of class size in high schools. 72% believe that class size makes a great difference, and 21% believe that class size makes some difference, while only 3% said that it does not make a difference (the rest said they didn’t know).
Class size is a popular topic when it comes to conversations about education and education reform. The truth is, opinions are mixed. Research shows that class size can make a difference, with studies finding significant student learning gains attributable to small classes in kindergarten and first grade in particular. There is less conclusive research that smaller classes in later grades has a similarly significant impact on student learning, although some advocacy groups do call for smaller classes across the board.
USA Today recently featured an article discussing class size decisions in school districts and their impact on students.
Feel free to share your thoughts on class size in the comments section of this post. I also hope you will respond to our new poll on the potential effects of the state’s budget shortfall in the sidebar.
Where’s the outrage? That question was posed by the Oregonian Editorial Board June 29th. I’ve been mulling that one around in my head for awhile so it was nice to see it make headlines. Oregon’s budget is causing the carving away at some of the basics that bring kids to school and get them ready for the future. No PE, limited electives, larger class sizes. Ouch. Yet it seems pretty quiet around town and among my teacher colleagues.
The canary in a coal mine role that I played in the staff room this year was not a hit. Maybe because I’m not as cute as a canary or that my flustering was just that, flustering. You see I used to teach in California (LA area and SF area). I saw the gradual destruction of a once ground breaking educational system. When I left the state it was because I was burnt out and frustrated. I had over 30 kids in both of my 6th grade Core sections. More homogenous classes can function with high numbers but I had three kids whose moms were dying, a kid who got mauled by a dog, 3 kids in foster homes, one arrested for dealings with bombs. It was a crazy year, like many crazy years before that and since. For me the last straw was the lack of a school counselor. We hadn’t had a counselor in years and there was no talk about getting one. It was exhausting to try to be both a teacher and caregiver. So I moved to Oregon. (more…)
Recent figures released by the National Center for Education Statistics list Oregon public schools as having the fourth-largest class size in the country (See Betsy Hammond’s article in the Oregonian). While this is a horrible statistic and certainly a fact that bodes badly for both our teachers and our students, it made me wonder just where we should focus maximum efforts with minimal dollars.
When I was first working for Chalkboard Project at the Oregon legislature, we advocated for reduced class sizes, but only for kindergarten and 1st grade. (more…)