1. THE PROBLEM:

•         Many classes in Baltimore City Public Schools are overly large.

The greater the number of students in a class, the fewer the opportunities for students to participate orally.

The larger the number of students in a class, the greater the amount of time devoted to classroom management rather than instruction.

The larger the class size, the less likely teachers are to develop lessons encouraging higher-level thinking . . .      – National Council of Teachers of English

       A teacher who faces 25 students in a class period of 50 minutes has no more than 2 minutes, at best, per pupil for one-to-one interaction during any period.

Young people of color in the United States are significantly more likely than white students to be educationally disadvantaged by placement in crowded classes with more than 25 students.

2. THE BENEFITS OF REDUCING CLASS SIZE:

•         More teacher-student interaction, fostering success

•         Greater use of effective instructional strategies

•         More student engagement

•         Less time on behavior issues, more on instruction

•         Higher student achievement, especially for poor and minority students

•         Higher graduation rates

•         Improved teacher morale

Smaller classes tend to decrease teacher attrition rates over time, especially in high needs areas, leading to a more experienced and effective teaching force.

Smaller classes allow reflection, allow feedback from teachers and peers, and spark inventiveness and deeper learning through questioning, discussion and debate.

Class size reduction has the strongest support of any education reform in polls of stakeholder groups, including parents and teachers.

Teachers say – at over 90% – that it is the best way to improve their effectiveness, more so than additional training, increased salaries, merit pay or any other strategy.

“Those whose performance improves the most are those who need the most help: children from poor and minority backgrounds, who make about twice the gains as other students.  Reducing class size in the early grades shrinks the achievement gap by about 38%.”

One re-analysis of the STAR data published in the American Journal of Public Health estimated that reducing class sizes may be more cost-effective than almost any other public health and medical intervention, with large savings in health care and almost two years of additional life for those students who were in smaller classes in the early grades.

3. THE EVIDENCE:

“After controlling for student background, the only objective factor that was found to be correlated with higher student success was class size, not school size, not teacher qualifications, nor any other variable that the researchers could identify.”

Source: Donald McLaughlin and Gili Drori, “School-Level Correlates of Academic Achievement: Student Assessment Scores in SASS Public Schools.” Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, 2000.

Although Dr. Alonso and others have suggested that reducing class size is only effective if the number of students gets below a certain “threshold” (18 students), there is abundant evidence that this is not the case:

Economist Alan Krueger of Princeton analyzed the Tennessee STAR data and found that even within the larger classes of 22-25, students did better, the smaller their class size – that is in classes of 22 or more. According to Krueger, Charles Achilles, and other class size researchers, the relationship between lower class size and higher student achievement is roughly linear, with no evidence of a threshold.

Three large scale studies have shown that the smaller the class, the better the results, as measured by student performance on NAEP tests, again with no evidence of a threshold effect. According to these studies, there is no particular level to which a class size must be lowered, in order to raise achievement.

 Poor and minority students assigned to small classes more likely to take ACT/SAT ; reduced black-white differential by 60%

The Institute of Education Sciences, the research arm of the United States Department of Education has concluded that class size reduction is one of only four, evidence-based reforms that have been proven to increase student achievement through rigorous, randomized experiments — the “gold standard” of research.

A recent re-evaluation of the STAR experiment in Tennessee revealed that students who were in smaller classes in kindergarten had higher earnings in adulthood, as well as a greater likelihood of attending college and having a 410K retirement plan. In fact, according to this study, the only two “observable” classroom factors that led to better outcomes were being placed in a small class and having an experienced teacher.

Esteemed researchers such as Peter Blatchford have found that there is no particular threshold that must be reached before students receive benefits from smaller classes, and any reduction in class size increases the probability that they will be on-task and positively engaged in learning.

Studies have shown that reducing class size is equally or more effective at the secondary level as it is at the elementary level.

Three large scale studies have shown that the smaller the class, the better the results, as measured by student performance on NAEP exams, again with no evidence of a threshold effect. According to these studies, there is no particular level to which a class size must be lowered to in order to raise achievement.4

4 Donald McLaughlin and Gili Drori, School-Level Correlates of Academic Achievement: Student Assessment

Scores in SASS Public Schools, U.S. Department of Education, 2000;

http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2000/2000303.pdf. David Grissmer, et.al., Improving Student Achievement: What

State NAEP Test Scores Tell Us, Santa Monica, CA: RAND, 2000, www.rand.org/publications/MR/MR924/

See also Harold Wenglinsky, When Money Matters, Educational Testing Service, April 1997;

http://www.ets.org/research/pic/wmm.pdf

4. OUR PROPOSAL:

Educators for Democratic Schools urges the School Board to take the following actions immediately:

Put a mandatory cap of 25 students per class on all schools in the District and assist principals in implementing this policy immediately. By the start of the 2012-2013 school year, there should be noclasses with more than 25 students in any BCPS school.

Allow all surplussed teachers to continue working at their current site until they find a permanent placement. This will help their school keep their class size at the lowest possible level.

Make class size a priority in all budgetary decisions. Ensure that the District employs enough teachers, paraprofessionals and other school-based staff to keep class size low before considering expenditures for standardized testing, executive pay or hiring new Central Office staff.

We recognize that a major part of the problem is the legacy of underfunding that has plagued BCPS and other urban districts for decades. We encourage everyone to pressure the State of Maryland and the City of Baltimore for increased funding for our students. However, there is much that can be done right now with the resources the district already has. Reducing class size must be a top priority for the board, the CEO, North Avenue and every school principal. Ignoring the problem or making excuses is not acceptable. Our students deserve better!

5. OUR CALL FOR SUPPORT FROM PARENTS, STUDENTS AND THE COMMUNITY:

Educators for Democratic Schools calls on all parents, students and community members to join us in our campaign for lower class size. This is a reform that will benefit students as well as teachers. It is an issue that everyone can get behind. If you want your children to have the best chance at succeeding in school and in life, please speak to us after the meeting. If we are united, we can win the changes that our schools so desperately need. Thank you!

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