Comments about ‘Effective teachers, small class sizes championed by panel of educators’

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Published: Wednesday, July 17 2013 5:16 p.m. MDT

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Eliot
Santaquin, UT

Mary Ward, an English and ESL teacher at Granger High School in West Valley City, said . . .

"That's crap, that is absolute crap," she said.

An English teacher said that? Oh dear. Is it too much to ask an English teacher to come up with a better word than "crap" to convey the same idea? I get her point but there might be a better way to express it.

Howard Beal
Provo, UT

Sometimes profanity or near profanity gets the point across better. Mary Ward said what needed to be said. I agree with her 100%.

Brave Sir Robin
San Diego, CA

Actually she's wrong...profanity or not. Studies have repeatedly shown that class sizes have no effect on grades or test scores. Neither does teacher pay. The country's best-paid teachers are in the worst-performing school district...look it up. It's the North Slope Borough District in Alaska.

I took classes in college with 600 students - I learned a ton and I was very successful. Why? Because I wanted to be there and I wanted to learn. The bottom line is kids who want to be there and want to learn will be successful, no matter how big their class is or how much their teacher makes.

A panel of teachers arguing that teachers should be paid more...I wonder what their motivation could be?

birder
Salt Lake City, UT

The districts and Legislature need to decrease the number of tests that we as teachers are required to give. It has gotten to the point where just about all we do is test or prepare to take a test. With SAGE coming on board this coming year, our district will require us to give 2-3 state tests (SAGE), math block and benchmark tests, monthly reading level tests, reading fluency tests, language arts "performance task" tests, computerized reading tests 3 times each year, a computer-graded writing test that is a farce, keyboarding tests, and I'm sure I have missed some. Come on.And if Aaron Osmond gets his bill passed on removing mandatory school attendance, teacher pay will continue to be tied to the test scores, even if students miss dozens of school days per year.

metisophia
Ogden, UT

Brave Sir Robin, the studies to which you refer were written by right wing think tanks with an agenda of their own.

Class size matters, else top prep and private schools would have large class sizes. Teacher pay matters; CEOs and politicians continually tell us that it takes high pay to attract talent.

It takes really high pay to entice someone to teach on the North Slope of Alaska. Consider part of it hardship pay.

Our legislature often passes legislation that does not actually help with the education of our students. It's about time that they listened to actual teachers. I'm not holding my breath, though, to wait for said legislators to actually heed.

Orem Parent
Orem, UT

I am totally amazed that any rational human being can come to the conclusion that class size doesn't matter in k-12. It absolutely has to matter and it shouldn't take too much to see why.

Of course by the time you get to college you can handle being in a class of 500 but to try to apply that to elementary school is ludicrous at best.

Also someone probably needs a lesson in economics and supply and demand to understand why teachers in Alaska would be the highest paid. It isn't that hard to understand.

I'm all for smaller class sizes. I think that is where we need the most help in Utah and where we could get the biggest bang for our buck. I'd even agree to a small tax hike to pay for it.

We love to have children in this state. It's time we pay the piper.

Hamath
Omaha, NE

@ Brave Sir Robin

Look up stories on how Finland has is blowing away the other countries (including those in Asia). 30 years ago they were average, mediocre, just like the U.S. and fellow Scandanavian countries like Sweden. Now Finland isn't. Sweden, just like the U.S. is still mediocre compared to other countries. What did Finland do? Well, a small part of what they did was teacher pay. Not the most important part. But a small part. Maybe not even vital. Look up what they did and you decide what we can learn from them.

Despite agreeing generally with what the teachers say here, I am not convinced class size matters much past the point of 8 or 9. Great businesses rarely or never have a low level leader (very akin to a trainer/teacher) over more than 8 or 9 employees. Once you get past that point where you can develop strong 1-1 relationships, the difference between 15 and 35 is probably smaller than we'd care to admit. In both cases there are too many students for great teaching and leadership.

sally
Kearns, UT

I disagree on small class size being the most effective method of improving our school system. I work with elementary age children in cub scouting. It does not matter how large my scout group is. What matters is the support and attitude of the home they live in. If the family has high expectations and application of those expectations, the scout will excel. Only in rare situations will a scout excel without the help of family support. They may receive awards, but that is only part of the equation of success.

CHS 85
Sandy, UT

@Brave Sir Robin

Please come spend a day in my wife's Kindergarten classroom where she has 25 students in the morning and 20 in the afternoon. Just the additional five students makes a HUGE difference.

Instead of citing "facts" go find some facts of your own.

I love how the anti-education crowd never mentions about the time they spent in a K-12 classroom working with actual students - they just quote surveys. Get your hands dirty and get in the trenches and then tell us what you think.

Steve Cottrell
Centerville, UT

Two fairly obvious conclusions:

1. Those who think class size does not make a difference (and then refer to university settings which are very different to support their idea) have never taught in public school classrooms.

2. You can only get better teachers if there is adequate competition for the jobs. Most of the time, schools employ the best they can find. Without better incentives which should include increased pay AND smaller classrooms, the candidate pool will continue to be very limited.

worf
Mcallen, TX

This is hitting the nail on the head.

"Changing curriculum and program over and over doesn’t give us the chance to succeed"

Some other ideas:

* reduce paper work
* hire more teacher assistants
* eliminate standardized tests
* allow teachers to give more accurate grades without fear of being evaluated as a poor teacher.

RedShirt
USS Enterprise, UT

To "metisophia" actually it isn't "right wing" think tanks that have found that class size does not matter.

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development the best educational outcoems are in South Korea. In South Korea they have an average class size of 32 kids. Canada averages 26, Japan averages around 40,

If class size was so critical, how is it that South Korea can have such a large class and have the best outcomes? Doesn't that imply that there is something else that matters when it comes to teaching?

Steve Cottrell
Centerville, UT

Dear Red Shirt:

Please also note that students in South Korea and Japan go regularly to private or near-private tutorial sessions. They also have longer school days and longer school years than we have. Our school year is 180 days; most countries that have better test results than ours have school years of 200, 210 or 220 school days per year.

Reader81
SLC, UT

Being a teacher, I know from experience that class size makes an enormous difference. During the past few years I have seen an increase in the number of students who have emotional, physical, and individualized learning needs. It is difficult to meet the needs of all the students when class sizes are large. Sally from Kearns, I appreciate your insight. I must disagree, however. I also work with children at my church, and the church/scout setting is quite different from the school setting. In the school setting, we are with students for a large portion of the day, 5 days a week. School is compulsory, therefore, and as a result, there is a wide range of attitudes toward having to attend, from both children and parents. Last, there are strict standards that must be met in schooling. If these standards are not met, there are consequences. Family support is very important (I would even say crucial), but what happens in the classroom changes greatly depending on the size of the class.

RedShirt
USS Enterprise, UT

To "Steve Cottrell" so then what you are saying is that class size is not the key, but seems to be a cultural thing.

I didn't say it was a cultural thing that made the difference, but yes, success in school depends on the importance that the parents give it.

Howard Beal
Provo, UT

Brave Sir Robin:

Your example is quite humorous. You find a district in Alaska that has the highest per pupil spending and then take the logical conclusion because their test scores or whatever are low that spending in education doesn't help. Well, so you all know, this district is in a very remote area of Alaska where the population of the students are indigenous peoples. Because of poverty and other cultural factors these students don't come from an enriching educational environment. I imagine there is high cost for educating students arises from attracting teachers to the area in the first place, the vast space of the district to get students to and from school, and I imagine that heating the school in harsh winter conditions isn't cheap either. I can't imagine cutting funds will improve their education.

Money isn't the cure-all for education. In some cases there is waste. But I wouldn't say Utah's public schools are fraught with waste. I think Utah schools are doing a lot with very limited resources. But I also have warned that Utah is on the precipice of education disaster if we continue down this path.

Howard Beal
Provo, UT

So Sally, does your cub scot pack have 30 kids in it? Would it make a difference then. I suspect it would. Even if they came from good families that valued scouting. Even if you were really good at being a den leader. Of course with the former, a teacher doesn't get all their students being from good families that value education.

worf
Mcallen, TX

Let's forget that children are people, and mandate 300 days of school per year with twelve hour days.

We can out teach all those countries.

worf
Mcallen, TX

* If a car salesman sold you a lemon,--would you buy another car from him?
* If a mechanic charged you a high price for a repair, and the car still didn't work right. Would again, go to the same mechanic?

If the feds got us into a seventeen trillion dollar debt, and the economy worsened. Would you trust them to educate our children?

RunAmuckMom
Salt Lake City, UT

The thinking that classroom sizes don't affect teaching or learning is completely and utter "poo". If you have a classroom of 32 children and many of late have some form of adhd/add. What you have is a heap of frustration with teachers wondering why they chose to teach in the first place or early burnout per say. That is too many. No one is equipped to deal with those conditions on a daily non-stop basis. The assumption that children behave in school is wrong. A teacher may be able to teach a classroom of 40 adults but put that same teacher in a classroom of elementary aged children. It will be a different story. Excuses can be made to minimize and push the issue aside. It is what it is..our teachers need room to give "quality" to their skills, and they need the resources to be provided for teaching our children including classroom size. In our area the average classroom size is 32 for 4th, 5th, and 6th grades. Teachers need stress/pressures reduced for effective teaching and handling of our children. Most people homeschool their children where I live. I know why.

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