Quaid’s AP story about class size is making the rounds of the blogs and the twittosphere. It’s actually a frustrating story because (a) there really isn’t much of a debate about whether class size matters more than teacher effectiveness, the research is clear it doesn’t, effectiveness matters more and (b) most districts pay little attention to effectiveness when they lay off teachers. Or much at all.* Assuming an adequate supply of effective teaching candidates, smaller classes (in the teens kinda small) in the very early grades have some benefits – both to students and as a recruiting strategy for good teachers. But because districts are so locked-in to their personnel patterns there is very little in the way of creative distribution of teachers so we’re not talking about targeted reductions being at-risk here nor are we talking about really small classes**, more like a student or two here and there and mostly across the board. For instance, the article cites LA where the problem is not whether classes are larger by one or two kids in middle or high school but rather that average class sizes there are, according to AP, 35-43 kids, to begin with. That’s nuts.
*’Tis apparently true: Teachers are mostly treated as interchangeable anyway. If the economic downturn actually meant more attention to educational productivity it would be a silver lining to an otherwise unfortunate situation… **There are exceptions, of course, there are always exceptions seeing as there are 13K+ school districts around the country, but in general.