It's been all over the news: how another budget crisis in Sacramento means another spring of budget crises for local public school districts, a desperate situation that could lead to the layoffs of many more teachers and the increase in class sizes in all grades.
For this school year, Mt. Diablo Unified, one of the hardest hit in the Bay Area, already eliminated class size reduction in grades K-3. That is, it raised the number of students per class from 20 to 30. K-3 class size reduction was introduced in California back in 1996, and districts were given incentives when they managed to keep class sizes in grades K-3 at 20. This also applied to some core 9th grade classes, such as math and English.
For this school year, Walnut Creek also raised K-3 class sizes from 20 to 25.
A lot of us parents like the idea of small class sizes because we believe our kids will potentially get more one-on-one time with their teachers. I'm sure teachers like it, too. Many education experts agree that students, over time, do better, academically and behaviorally in smaller class sizes.
"I am heartsick that some California school districts are backing away from class size reduction, a reform that is being whittled away in this terrible budget climate," wrote Delaine Eastin, who was state superintendent of schools when class size reduction was implemented. She was sharing her views in a City Brights blog on SFGate.com. "The decision to undermine class size reduction, to lower the number of days in the school year, to lay off teachers, counselors, nurses, crossing guards, to close schools, to reduce preschool, to reduce honors classes and even to raise fees at our colleges and universities is a shame and a disgrace."
Some experts, however, think that, ultimately, what counts is good teachers. A bad teacher won't do any better with 30 students than she will with 20. These experts say that California's class size reduction experiment cost the state billions of dollars that could have been better spent on improving teacher quality and other reforms that would have made our schools the models of excellence that they once were.
What do you think? What has been your child's experience in a small class, or in a large class. Are you scared about what's going on right now with the disaster that is public education financing?