Paul Sakuma, Associated Press
English teacher Elizabeth Old grades a stack of papers during the "Teacher Grade-In" demonstration in Stockton, Calif., Tuesday, May 10, 2011 as part of a state-wide protests against school budget cuts. Among the 275 pink-slipped Stockton teachers is Old, who has taught at her alma mater, Franklin High School, since 2007. She's worried about how her students, many of whom only read at an elementary-school level, will learn if class sizes keep growing.

Here's some math from a former high school science teacher on how policy affects student preparedness for college. Three years ago at East High School, my colleagues and I typically had 35 students per class (at best) with six classes for a total student load of 210 students. Best practice for improving literacy in the ninth grade suggests daily writing assignments using a five sentence paragraph.

How long did it take to read the previous paragraph? One minute? That would be 210 minutes to read a paragraph from each of your students — more when you can't read their handwriting. How long would it take you to give meaningful feedback on my missing introduction and conclusion sentences and suggest other areas for improvement? Another 210 minutes? 420 minutes have just been added to your seven-hour teaching day. That means 14 hour work days, and you still haven't prepped for the six classes you have to teach tomorrow.

These numbers suggest that legislators need to improve their numeracy. Each legislator should be able to calculate a high school teacher's student load ("students per class" x "classes taught") and make inferences about how these numbers affect critical feedback on writing skills. Thanks, Sen. Karen Morgan, for running a bill to lower class sizes for grades K-3. I hope next year it can include high schools.

Ryan Pleune

Salt Lake City