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Archive for the ‘Class Size’ Category

Getting real with class size

The DOE today issued its new and revamped class size report, and for the first time–or the second if you count last year’s somewhat controversial report–it is possible to get fairly accurate data on class sizes at the city level, the borough level, the district and the school levels. This is a huge advance, the product of a ridiculous amount of work and struggle.

It’s also a huge amount of data. What to make of it? The best thing to do to start is check out your own school and grade or subject, if you are a teacher, and see if it matches reality. Parents should of course look at their children’s schools and grades. If it doesn’t, let the UFT know. But going forward it should be much harder for DOE to fudge the class sizes. This is a tool that anyone can use to monitor class size. What it shows is that while classes overall are getting a bit smaller, this is not happening fast enough, especially in the high schools.

More »

Class Size and the IBO Report

[Editor’s note: The Independent Budget Office released a report (pdf) that found a relatively small drop in class sizes despite declining enrollment and nearly $200 million in state and federal funds dedicated to reducing class size.]

It is disturbing to learn that the Independent Budget Office’s analysis shows that fully 61% of New York City’s public school kindergarten to third-grade classrooms exceeded the state’s early grade class size standard of 20 students per class last year. That target is part and parcel of the early grade class size reduction initiatives approved by the state 10 years ago and was based on what many researchers and educational experts consider best for effectively teaching children. There is universal agreement on class size reduction in the early grades; the question is why is it not happening for all the city’s students in kindergarten through third grade and how do we make it happen? More »

CTT and the Class Size Swindle

This past Thursday, the DoE released the class size plan required of it as part of New York State’s Contracts for Excellence. About $228 million is subject to the Contracts, which means that $228 million must be spent on class size reduction, time on task, professional development, secondary school restructuring, and pre-K.

Of those five categories, the state singles out class size for special focus, which is why the city had to create its plan. Had to is the optimal phrase here, since heaven knows the DoE has never shown much zeal for putting kids smaller classes. In fact given its longstanding antipathy, I imagine the DoE went about the task of writing this plan with all the enthusiasm of a high school Senior writing a research paper in early June. And the final written product – a lot of sound and suppressed fury signifying next to nothing – reminds me of some high school essays, too. More »

Gaming the System: Lowering Class Size and Acing Your School Progress Report …

Principals, and, hopefully School Leadership Teams (SLTs), should be in the process of struggling to create a school budget for the 07-08 school year. The tool to create the budget is Galaxy, the transparent web-based program that drives the process.

All school 07-08 allocations are available on the web. An example of a large high school allocation, a small high school allocation and an elementary school allocation are a few clicks away.

Current 06-07 school budgets are up to date and reflect actual positions, the same large high school, small high school () and elementary school budgets show dollars budgeted and expended as of yesterday.

After the seemingly never-ending battle over funding, the victory in the CFE lawsuit and the struggle in Albany is over: the dollars are finally flowing to the schools. School allocations reflect the additional funding as well as the “weights” that are part of what the Department calls Fair Student Funding. ELL, Special Education and low achieving students each have a “weight” assigned to the student, an additional amount of funding for each “weighted” student. More »

State Budget Contains Historic Mandate For Lower Class Sizes in NYC

The New York State budget adopted Saturday and in the early hours of Sunday morning included historic language mandating lower class sizes in New York City. The exact wording follows:

In a city school district in a city having a population of one million or more inhabitants such contract shall also include a multi-year (5 year) plan to reduce average class sizes, as defined by the Commissioner for the following grade ranges: (i) pre-kindergarten –third grade; (ii) fourth-eighth grade and; (iii) high school. Such plan shall include class size reduction for low performing and overcrowded schools and also include the methods to be used to achieve such class sizes, such as the creation or construction of more classrooms and school buildings, the placement of more than one teacher in a classroom or methods to otherwise reduce the student to teacher ration; provided, however, that notwithstanding any law, rule or regulation to the contrary, the sole and exclusive remedy for a violation of the requirements of this paragraph shall be pursuant to a petition to the commissioner of education under subdivision seven of section three hundred ten of the education law, and the decision of the commissioner on such petition shall be final and unreviewable.

Key to the successful implementation of this measure is the vesting of the final power in the state Commissioner of Education.

The Net Benefits of Educational Investment

Economic models of education are all the rage these days, especially among proponents of remaking public schooling into one large laissez-faire market. But for the most part, these models are incredibly one-sided, focusing on the costs of schooling and on reforms such as lowering class size or introducing universal pre-Kindergarten without examining their benefits. In a day and age when 22% of African-American men in their thirties have prison records, while only 12% hold college degrees, one needs to compare the costs of not investing in education and proven reforms against the costs of making such an investment. An informative economic model would examine both costs and benefits of various educational programs.

In this vein, the Center for Benefit-Cost Studies of Education at Columbia University’s Teachers College has just published a study by four leading educational scholars on The Costs and Benefits of an Excellent Education for All of America’s Children. Columbia University’s Hank Levin and Peter Muennig, CUNY’s Clive Belfield and Princeton’s Cecilia Rouse look at the potential benefits of a number of proven educational reforms, and conclude that with investments in these areas, the United States could save as much $45 billion annually in increased tax revenues and in reduced public health and criminal justice costs if we reduced the drop out rate by 0ne-half, a feasible target. “Educational investments to raise the high school graduation rate appear to be doubly beneficial,” the study’s authors write. “The quest for greater equity for all young adults would also produce greater efficiency in the use of public resources.”

Among the investments which could improve high school graduation rates are:

* Universal Pre-Kindergarten along the lines of the Perry Pre-School in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Perry provides children with 1.8 years of a center-based program for 2.5 hours per weekday, offering a child-to-teacher ratio of 5:1; home visits; and group meetings of parents. The researchers estimate that, implemented on a broad scale, Perry’s benefit-to-cost ratio would be 2.31 to 1, and that it would create an additional 19 new high school graduates per 100 students.

* Parenting Programs such as the Chicago Child-Parent Center Program, a preschool program with parental involvement, outreach and health/nutrition services, based in public schools. This approach would achieve an estimated benefit-to-cost ratio of 3.09 to 1 and create an additional 11 high school graduates per 100 students.

* Comprehensive school reform centered on small learning communities, such as First Things First, a program that includes dedicated teachers, family advocates and instructional improvement. FTF would achieve an estimated benefit-to-cost ratio of 3.54 to 1 and create an additional 16 high school graduates per 100 students.

* Class-size reduction. This approach – based on the parameters of Project Star, a four-year, randomized field trial in Tennessee – would include four years of schooling (from kindergarten through third grade) with class size reduced from 25 to 15. The researchers estimate that, implemented on a broad scale, class-size reduction along these lines would achieve a benefit-to-cost ratio of 1.46 to 1, and that it would create an additional 11 new high school graduates per 100 students.

* Teacher salary increase of 10 percent for all years K-12. This approach would achieve an estimated benefit-to-cost ratio of 2.55 to 1 and create an additional five high school graduates per 100 students.

Tales of Two Schools, Large and Small

When the initial cohort of fifteen new small high schools started under Children First graduated their first class last June, Chancellor Joel Klein made a point not only of praising the work of these schools, but of making invidious comparisons with the large, comprehensive schools they were replacing. To hear the Chancellor, the contrast could not be starker: the new small schools are the crown jewels of Children First, complete academic successes; the established large comprehensive schools they are replacing are symbols of a failed educational past. For Klein, these are the best of schools and the worst of schools.

In an era of evidence based educational reform, we thought it would be an interesting experiment to put Klein’s Manichean worldview of New York City high schools to an empirical test. Using data from the latest published School Report Cards available at the Department of Education’s own web site, we did side-by-side comparisons of new small schools and the large comprehensive high schools in the buildings where the new small schools had been sited. Five such pairings can be constructed from the available data: the small Bronx Aerospace and the large Evander Childs HS; the small Bronx Guild and the large Adlai Stevenson HS; the small HS for Teaching and the Professions and the large Walton HS; the small Marble Hill HS and the large John F. Kennedy HS; and the small Pelham Prep and the large Columbus HS. The DOE does not provide a school report card for the last year of schools which have completed phasing out, so we were unable to make the same comparisons with regard to the new small schools placed in the South Bronx HS and Morris HS buildings. Nonetheless, this sampling is a large portion of the universe, and the trends are virtually identical in each particular instance. Data tables for each of these pairings are found at the end of this posting. More »

Too late for willful ignorance on class size

After more than a year of editorializing against reducing class size, the N.Y. Post can no longer claim ignorance on how class size is measured. Yet in yesterday’s umpteenth idiotic rant against the UFT and parents who want class sizees lowered, the Post continues to insist that there are 13.25 kids per teacher in the system, demanding, “Where are all the teachers hiding?”

They don’t really want to know, but here are a few places: there are math and literacy coaches (2 in each of 1400 schools), attendance teachers helping to stem truancy (364-not nearly enough), guidance counselors and social workers (some 4,000), teachers of the homebound and hospitalized (400) and special education teachers (about 15,000) who have mandated class size limits of 6 to 12, to name a few.

Nowhere is student:teacher ratio accepted as a proxy for class size, as the Post no doubt knows.

But then the editorial starts shilling for Aris, the $80 million database the DOE has ordered up from IBM. (No consultation with parents or teachers on that–though if that surprises you then you just flew in from a galaxy far far away.) And what will this fabulous new creature do? Evidently it will count teachers. It will also count teachers’ students’ test scores, and assign grades to principals and somehow that will give them more autonomy which will weaken teacher power. Um, OK.

For a more on-the-ground assessment of the new computer system, check out recent posts on the excellent new parent blog, NYC Public School Parents. Apparently not everyone is in $80 million worth of awe about Aris.

Spitzer’s Billions and the City Schools

Wow! Five point four billion clams: We quote:

(from Spitzer’s Education Budget)
“Another $3.2 billion in annual funding for New York City when fully phased in over the next four years. When combined with $2.2 billion in increased annual spending on education by New York City in four years (as reflected in the City’s four-year financial plan), the total amount of increased spending on New York City schools in four years will be $5.4 billion.”

Real money. Far more than CFE required and far more than anyone would have believed possible just a couple of years ago.

But it’s still very abstract. Even aside from the question of whether the Legislature will pass this budget, there is long experience to tell us that billions of dollars can and actually do disappear in the labyrinth of DOE bureaucracy. Until real people do the work of turning the billions into concrete programs, services and improvements that you can see and touch and that make an absolute measureable difference in the lives of students and schools, even five billion dollars is abstract.

What’s good about the Spitzer budget is a renewed emphasis on resources. For years we’ve heard “accountability,” spoken as a threat. Money (and very little of it) was only going to go to people who were “accountable,” meaning that they got the test scores up.

In this budget, the fresh air comes in the form of a large increase in funding for universal pre-kindergarten and full-day kindergarten, for increased special ed funding and incentives for middle school students to pursue math and science. His accountability measures are expressed as a contract between the state and local districts in which districts are urged to spend the increased funds on things that work, like class size reduction, increased student “time-on-task,” teacher quality, middle and high school restructuring and full-day pre-K.

Even the test score stuff has been humanized, with a commitment from the governor that by 2010 the Regents will have created an accountability system based on measurement of student growth instead of absolute scores alone.

But this fresh air could quickly start to smell funny when it arrives in New York City. The governor’s budget, probably wisely, doesn’t prescribe exactly how districts spend their state education money. BUT here in NYC we know the mayor and chancellor have only the most cursory interest in class size reduction. Their views on improving teacher quality are best revealed in two new initiatives: evaluating teachers for tenure based on their students’ test scores, and a new “fair” funding formula calculated to drive the most experienced teachers out of the system. Their middle schools and high schools restructuring plan is only about structure–changing grade configurations and opening ridiculous numbers of new schools. Nothing on teaching and learning.

It is evident from the Chancellor’s Next Big Thing, the initiative he calls “Fair Student Funding,” that he is focused on driving down labor costs in the schools. He says he’s redistributing teaching talent so poor schools get more of it and rich schools less, but essentially he’s making it too costly for all principals to hire or retain veteran teachers. [More about this in a future post]. It appears that much of the state funding increase that is coming to the city will go to muffle the impact of this teacher redistribution incentive for the next couple of years by increasing funding for all schools. Within a year, though, stable, high-functioning schools will start losing senior teachers and replacing them with cheaper ones. And we’re just one recession away from seeing that happen in all our schools.

Against all modern principles of good budgeting, one wishes the governor would tell Klein exactly how to spend the new money: class size reduction in every grade, hard-to-staff school incentives, generous resources at the school level, professional development and mentoring in collaborative teams that have time to meet and work together during the school day. Well, one wishes for many things…

It is a sad day for the city, this amazing state budget announcement. Because the educators who could make that money really work for kids, and help the schools grow and change, have long since been driven underground, while the ascendent lawyers and consultants at Tweed are devoting themselves to things like the fabulously successful new bus schedule, which will save us $12 million. 12 million snails. Chump change. What it comes down to is that the city schools are going to get $5.4 billion and it could be substantially misspent.

Faxing NY Legislators to Demand Smaller Classes

UFT members as well as parent advocates have started faxing their legislators demanding that a significant portion of any CFE settlement be targeted towards reducing class size in every grade, K-12. You can be part of the campaign and fax your legislators by going to the UFT’s website. Please also forward the link to the fax petition to your friends, colleagues and other public education advocates.

Lower class size–Eliot gets it!

And what was the first measure Eliot Spitzer proposed in the education part of his State of the State speech [pdf] today?

Yes! Lower class size. Sometimes you feel like you’re spitting in the wind; sometimes you realize just how powerful a dogged popular campaign can be. New Yorkers for Smaller Classes, a coalition the UFT helped launch, has gathered over 100,000 signatures for lower class size, sued the Bloomberg administration, marched and chanted. Supporters have come to endless rallies, handed out flyers at schools, subway stops, in parks and concerts and everywhere. There were plenty of times it looked like a lost cause. But hey, Day One everything changes, right?

In the past, Spitzer has not singled out class size reduction as a main priority. But today it was front and center: “In exchange for this [increased education] funding, school districts must invest in programs that have been proven to work. All of us in this chamber know that smaller class size matters, espeically for younger students.”

That’s what he said, and he said it loud and clear. He went on to call for a longer school day and year, after-school programs, school Internet libraries and improved teaching. He made univeral pre-K and raising the state charter cap additional major proirities.

The road ahead is unquestionably bumpy but this was a big victory, folks.

Why Can’t the Managers Manage? The Class Size/Student Placement Mess.

When the BOE morphed into the DOE one aspect of the reorganization that received little examination was (OSEPO), the Office of Student Enrollment and Placement Operations.

The major “piece” of OSEPO is the 8th to 9th grade student articulation, the high school application process. By early December, each 8th grade student, must submit a high school application with up to twelve choices of high schools. Parents receive a high school directory, an encyclopedia sized description of the over 400 high schools and high school programs.

Over 80% of 8th grade students receive placements in the first round that is announced in April. Additional rounds place most of the remaining students. Students who are new to the system or have been discharged from schools are placed through what is referred to as “over-the-counter,” students are, beginning in mid August, directed to placement centers (there were 14 scattered throughout the city this year) and the centers, staffed mostly by retired counselors and school secretaries, interview parents and assign their kids school to a school.

Unfortunately the system has struggled.

Capacity is a key issue … OSEPO makes a determination as to “available” seats from afar and assigns students … In too many instances students are assigned to “invisible” seats and class size spirals upwards.

Special Ed students are assigned to schools that don’t have classes to fit the category of the handicapped kids.

There is no appeal at the school from a decision by OSEPO. Principals must simply accept the kids.

Principals have no one to call, to complain to … OSEPO is not part of any Region, not part of Empowerment, it functions as a quasi-independent agency, responsible to the Chancellor.

To make matters worse the Office of New Schools continues to “close” schools and “deflect” students to other schools, creating overcrowding.

The UFT Task Force on Small High Schools chastised the DOE process – closing schools and “deflecting” kids into already overcrowded schools and in some instances creating newly overcrowded schools.

The lack of transparency continues to be a core issue at Tweed.

Does the DOE have a deflection plan for the closing and opening of schools? Why does the DOE continue to create new schools without sites? How can you assign kids to schools that have no available seats? How can you assign Special Ed kids to schools without appropriate programs?

The offspring of Tweed, the Office of New Schools (ONS) and OSEP0 appear to operate in a vacuum, deaf to the crises that their decisions create.

In September, 07 the 5th to 6th grade articulation process will be an OSEPO responsibiity and newspapers report the Chancellor intends to create a system that mirrors the high school application system.

We need a public discussion and the creation of a transparent plan that addresses student placement, school creation, school capacity and the issue of oversize classes and the appropriate placement of special education and English language learners.

Smaller Classes

Less money, less teachers but not less students! This is an equation with a bad ending. It means our students will receive less of our time and thus less of an education.

When the year first began I wasn’t really worried about the issue of class size. I knew it was an important issue, one that certainly needed to be tackled, but it was not one of the many issues I was concerning myself with when it came time to thinking about my own teaching. I wasn’t even considering the possibility that I’d have 36 students in two of my double period classes.

When I received my class rosters my stomach dropped. More »

Smaller Classes Coalition

New Yorkers for Smaller Classes, a coalition of parent, labor and civic organizations has been fighting to get a ballot measure on the November ballot to dedicate 25% of CFE funds to reducing class sizes. The coalition has been growing steadily over the last several months, (Pulitzer prize winning author and retired NYC teacher Frank McCourt is the chairman),and has actions planned for the summer as the ballot measure winds its way through the judicial process. Anyone can join the New Yorkers for Class Sizes by visiting the website and signing up. You’ll also be informed of information, breaking news, and actions as they happen over the summer and into the fall.

The campaign on the ground

We’ve heard from the pundits and the judges and the critics. What they have to say is pretty much what they always have to say: “you can’t do that,” “it won’t work,” “let us handle this,” “we’re scared.” Well, they’re on hold for now.

Lowering class size is a campaign we are waging on the streets. Last week, parents and teachers all over the city handed out flyers and talked one on one about the need for smaller classes. Tomorrow (Thursday) New Yorkers for Smaller Classes and its supporters will be handing out the flyers at transportation hubs in every borough. We’re saying class size reduction works–it helps kids, it improves achievement, it solves problems and enhances teaching. It’s amazing how quickly everyday New Yorkers understand this and how long they’ve waited for their leaders to catch on. When we had our petition drives in 2003 and last year, people were signing for class size reduction faster than we could hand them a pen–over 100,000 of them.

Here’s a list of the hubs we’re covering tomorrow. We’ll have flyers in English and Spanish. Come and join about 5:00 p.m. at any location you’d like. It’s going to be a beautiful day to be on the ground.

Jay St/Boro Hall
Willoughby/Jay Street
Atlantic/Flatbush Avenues
4th Avenue/9th Street
7th Avenue/9th Street
Church Avenue (F train)
Fulton St/Malcolm X Blvd
Fulton St/Ralph Avenue
Grand Army Plaza
Nostrand Avenue/Eastern parkway
Utica Avenue/Church Avenue
Ralph Avenue/Tilde towards Flatlands
Starrett City Shopping Center
Van Sicklen Avenue (IRT station and IND station)
Atlantic Avenue/Linwood Street
Church Avenue/McDonald
Bay Ridge Avenue/4th Avenue

Staten Island
Ferry Terminal – Staten Island

Brooklyn Bridge/Chambers Street
Union Square
135 Street/Lenox Avenue
125th Street/Lenox Avenue
168th Street/Broadway

Flushing – Main and Roosevelt
Jackson Heights – Roosevelt Avenue

Fordham/Grand Concourse