Class sizes have risen for a fifth straight year across the school system, a new Department of Education report shows.
Overall, the increase was 1.6 percent, or an average four tenths of a student per class. High schools had the largest gain.
The department put the report out at the end of the day Friday, Dec. 15 — the same day as the Newtown, CT shootings — assuring it would get virtually no coverage.
But the facts are disturbing. Class sizes have been rising steadily in virtually every grade since the 2007-08 school year, with elementary grades hit particularly hard. The average 1st grade class has 3.7 more students now than it did in 2007, and the average 3rd grade has 4.2 more children. Class sizes are a central concern for parents and teachers, while the mayor has said they could double as far as he was concerned.
In response to a recent UFT survey, 56 percent of teachers said their class sizes were so large that it interfered with their ability to reach all their students.
It is already obvious that class sizes are up this year — which will give School Year 2011-12 the dubious honor of being the fourth straight year of class size increases. The DOE won’t have official numbers until November, but budget cuts resulted in the loss of some 2,500 teachers this year, enrollments are rising and now we have the Day 6 class size grievance counts: nearly 7,000, up from 4,370 this time four years ago.
Will the bigger classes affect achievement? Results from just a single year suggest they will. The UFT Research Dept. looked at fourth grade, where class sizes rose an average of about one-half a child (0.47) last year. Then we divided the fourth grade into schools where class size rose more than the average, and schools where it rose less, and looked at their achievement in math. The difference was pronounced. While the majority of schools improved in math last year, schools where 4th grade class sizes rose by less than the average improved two percentage points more than schools that had larger-than-average class size increases.
The United States Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, last week picked a few education bloggers, mostly on the basis of affinity and compatibility with his views, and invited them for breakfast to discuss a variety of topical issues such as class size.
Secretary Duncan observed that “Class size has been a sacred cow and I think we need to take it on.” He favors “selectively” raising class sizes instances when a teacher felt she could handle it. (An aside: a bit of gentle persuasion and a tacit quid pro quo from the administration to boot?)
Frederick Hess, a prominent blogger and anti-union zealot, in a March 3 post on Education Next categorized Duncan’s words on district-union collaboration as “reassuring.” Hess is referring to Duncan’s admission “I’m not for collaboration for collaboration’s sake. Collaboration around the status quo is a real problem.” More »
Class sizes citywide rose a average 2 percent, or 0.6 student per class. The increases were especially large in elementary schools, up to 23.7 students per class from 22.9 last year, and middle schools, up to 27 kids per class from 26.1 last year. High schools had a small increase.
The 4.2% budget cut is to blame this year, but this marks the third consecutive year of increases. Through 2008, class sizes were decreasing — very slowly, but they were decreasing. But since then they’ve been up in every grade every year. Since 2008, the average third grade class has swelled by 13 percent. The average first grade class is 9 percent larger. This wasn’t what the Campaign for Fiscal Equity decision was supposed to bring about.
[Editor's note: Versions of this piece appeared in community newspapers throughout the five boroughs. This is the Manhattan version.]
Tens of thousands of children across the city are crammed into overcrowded classrooms. Yet the city has received from the state more than three-quarters of a billion dollars in the past three years to lower class size. Despite this influx of funds — and the city’s promise in writing to use it to lower class size — class sizes have actually increased in New York City.
That is why the United Federation of Teachers, the NAACP, the Hispanic Federation and a coalition of other groups and individuals sued the city Department of Education earlier this month. Our lawsuit charges that despite a decline in overall student enrollment and the injection of more than $760 million in state funds from school years 2007-08 through 2009-10, class sizes have gone up by the largest amount in 11 years.
This $760 million was part of the state’s solution to an earlier case called the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, which challenged how state education funding had shortchanged urban districts, including New York City. The new funds, under the guidelines known as Contracts for Excellence, came with the proviso that the city deliberately target funds to smaller classes.
New York City took that money, and then ignored its promise, permitting principals to spend the money on other things, including replacing funds lost to city budget cuts, a clear violation of the agreement with the state. More »
Today, a coalition of civil rights organizations, educational advocacy groups and the UFT filed a law suit against the NYC Department of Education and Joel Klein for failure to comply with New York State law under the Contract for Excellence and lower class size in New York City public schools. The lawsuit charges that despite a decline in overall student enrollment and the injection of more than $760 million in dedicated state funds from school years 2007-08 through 2009-10, class sizes have actually increased in city schools.
Joining with the UFT in the lawsuit are the New York State Conference of the NAACP, the Hispanic Federation, Class Size Matters, the Alliance for Quality Education and parents of NYC public school students. Appearing in support of the law suit today were New York City Public Advocate Bill DeBlasio, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, New York NAACP President Hazel Dukes and Hispanic Federation President Lillian Rodríguez López.
UFT President Michael Mulgrew said, “New York City promised in writing that it would use specific funds to reduce class size. It then turned around and ignored its promise, saying that school principals who supposedly work for the DOE simply decided to spend the money on other things — among them, to replace funds lost to city budget cuts. The result has been that class sizes have actually increased over 2007 in every grade.”
“Three-quarters of a billion dollars later, tens of thousands of New York City students are packed into classes that are higher than anywhere else in the state. Who is managing — or should I say mismanaging — this process?” More »
Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend is an odd time for the Dept. of Education to publish the new class size numbers.
But a quick look at them suggests why: class sizes rose virtually across the board, for the second year in a row. This occurred despite $150 million in targeted state funding to reduce class sizes in New York City in each of these two years.
DOE obviously knew since September that class sizes were up. They told the Daily News Sunday that the just couldn’t help it because of budget cuts. That may be true, but then why stay mum and then publish your report over a holiday?
A UFT survey in October found that 70 percent of high schools and 63 percent of elementary and middle schools had larger classes this year. It was no surprise. But DOE has sort of slinked around on this issue, saying principals are in charge of their individual school budgets so Central is not accountable for how this state class size funding is spent. This doesn’t sound like the kind of accountability Central imposes on everyone else. More »
Caroline Hoxby’s updated report on New York City’s charter schools uses a provocative construct: she finds that Harlem’s charter students are making standardized test score gains that put them on track to substantially close their achievement gap with Scarsdale.
Hoxby, a Hoover Institution fellow and Stanford professor who has published extensively on charter schools (favorably) and teacher unions (unfavorably), looked at students who won admittance by lottery to certain New York City charters and compared their performance to students who applied but were not admitted.
Today, the nation’s preeminent charter school organization, Green Dot Public Schools, and its largest teacher union local, the United Federation of Teachers, signed an innovative and pioneering collective bargaining agreement for Green Dot’s New York City charter school. The contract was approved by the Board of Trustees of the Green Dot school on Monday, and was ratified by the UFT Chapter today.
The 29 page agreement breaks vital new ground, and not simply because it brings together leading forces in the ranks of the charter school movement and teacher unionism. Just as importantly, the contract embodies a new model of labor relations in education, based on a disarmingly simple proposition: that a school which respects, nurtures and supports teacher professionalism in all of its work will provide the best education for students. More »
PS 194, the Countee Cullen School, is nestled in the heart of Harlem in Community School District Five, one of the poorer districts in New York City. On a Tuesday evening a few weeks ago, it was the scene of a tense hearing. The full school auditorium was fiercely divided into two camps — on the one side, parents of PS 194 students fighting to keep their neighborhood school open, and on the other side, Eva Moskowitz and her supporters demanding that the entire building be turned over to her Harlem Success Academies.
Behind that conflict was the New York City Department of Education — and not just because it was the DOE which was planning to replace PS 194 entirely with one of Moskowitz’s schools. More »
This celebration of vigilantism from the film “The Treasure of Sierra Madre” comes unavoidably to mind in thinking about this whole business of increasing class sizes. In the film, Mexican bandits posing as “federales” surprise a group of American gold prospectors. One of the Americans (Humphrey Bogart) demands to see their badges. “Badges?” replies Mexican actor Alfonso Bedoya, with a fabulous sneer. “We don’t need no stinkin’ badges.”
Class sizes rose in almost every grade this year, despite an infusion of almost $150 million from State Ed specifically to lower class sizes. Was there an explanation? Really not. More »
Charged up parents, politicians and UFT officials attended a rally on August 6 to demand that the Department of Education take over a state-owned building at 75 Morton Street in Manhattan for a much needed middle school. The building is up for sale.
The rally was held a day after Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott wrote to the Empire State Development Corporation, which owns the building, asking that the sale be halted and that the site be used for a school. More »
Immediately before the holiday break, the New York City Department of Education published for the first time class size data for all NYC public schools. The data is far from complete: on the high school level, for example, it includes only classes in the four major subject areas [Social Studies, English Language Arts, Mathematics and Science]. There are also indications that it is not entirely accurate; some schools, it appears, took inclusion team teaching classes and reported them as two separate classes, one of general education students and one of special education students — even though they were instructed explicitly that they should not do that.
Yet even within these limitations, the data tells some very interesting stories. More »
. . . we are talking about kids being in high school classes of 23 instead of 35. We are talking about fifth grade classes of 20 instead of 30.
Based on the class size data that the Department of Education released last week, they’ve been thinking a tad more incrementally. Like, this year average K-3 classes were reduced by about two-tenths of a child. Grades 4-5 are down six-tenths of a child; middle schools are down seven-tenths of one kid. (High schools are not comparable with last year’s methodology.) More »