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Friday, July 15, 2005

Class Size: Jeb Bush Makes it Tougher to Conform

Jeb Bush (Governor of Florida) has always been an opponent of the class size amendment here in Florida. It will cost the state and each area a great deal of money to adhere to this amendment which was voted for by Floridian citizens. He has tried to get the Legislature to water it down, and was unable to. Now, I was (and am) an opponent of the class size amendment as well. Although it sounds great, it will be very costly. (For a great argument against smaller classes, go here.) Floridians have not always used their brains when voting (the High Speed Railway amendment comes to mind) so it's no great surprise to know that they vote for what sounds good, and not always for what is practical.

(Incidentally, I know that many of my teacher friends will disagree with me, because under this amendment more teachers would be hired. I understand your point of view, but studies don't indicate that children actually do any better in a smaller classroom than in a larger one. Please see the link above for a more detailed explanation.)

However, the government has recently chosen to interpret the amendment as harshly as possible. Critics believe that Jeb has influenced this decision. He is trying to create a situation where the voters will have to choose to strike the amendment because we will no longer be able to afford it. I don't know about you, but where I come from that's called dirty pool. He has no right to interfere with what the citizens voted for, even if he doesn't agree.

The new interpretation is that class size will not be determined by each and every teacher. For instance, that means that in special needs classes, where there are often two teachers, the extra teacher will not be taken into consideration when calculating.

This means that there will even be more expenditures if the State of Florida is going to be able to uphold this amendment. More buildings and classrooms will have to be built, and it could potentially cost billions statewide. That's right, billions.

At this point, Jeb is holding our feet to the fire. If we don't revoke or amend this amendment, we will be taxed so harshly that we will be paying for this for many years. The citizens are being punished for their choice to vote against what Jeb believed.

24 comments:

actonbell said...

Class size is always the ratio of students to teachers, right? How can they not count every teacher? That's definitely wrong. Teaching aides should also factor in. I do believe that smaller class sizes is the most important step our public school system should take, and that it's worth spending money on. It's sad that Jeb Bush is pulling politics on such an important issue.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Acton Bell,

Yes, you're right. It's the proportion of students to teachers.

Jeb doesn't have the right to go against the people's wishes. I firmly believe that politicians are supposed to represent the population, even if they don't agree with them.

mom of 4 said...

I absolutely HATE the class size ammendment. I don't like dirty pool either and won't make excuses for Bush's actions.

But how do we get this stupid ammendment repealed? I'm incensed by all these ammendments. I've actually been lied to by the petition hawks.

Something your teacher friends can't disagree with - A class of 30 might be big, but if all the students are well-behaved and ready to learn, it is manageble. You could have a class of 15, and if there's even just 1 disruptive kid in there, it will make all the difference. Ok, so that's my opinion and I'm not a teacher. But MY teacher friends agree.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Mom of 4 I agree with you, of course.

You know, it just hit me: the teachers might not like this amendment. Because, if you flood the schools with teachers, there will be a smaller salary pool to pull from for raises...

Kathleen said...

Saur: I am interested in what that intrepretation really means to the bottom line. Example: it will cost X billion if we count special ed teachers individually or X billion if not. What is the difference? Is it economically viable to do it under any scenario?

I voted against the amendment because of the reasons stated in the article and because it did not seem economically prudent. I well remember the debate. I am not writing to give Jeb a serious vote of confidence, but he strongly campaigned against the amendment noting these problems up front rather clearly.

For me, I am more interested in getting rid of this ill-conceived amendment than splitting hairs about who is not fully cooperating with it's implementation.

Kathleen said...

Saur: BTW, I agree that sometimes voters don't always use their brains.

Jamie Dawn said...

I don't know much about Florida politics.
So, Jeb's holding feet to the fire, huh? Sounds like presidential material to me.
Just kidding about this because it's been speculated in the news lately. Three Bush presidents is HIGHLY unlikely!

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

I say scrap school all together and let the rich kids pay for an education and the rest scrap it out in a large pit in Arizona.

Survival of the fittest and all that...

AP3 said...

Hey! Thanks for the Pez family links! :-)

Saur♥Kraut said...

Daniel, *LOL*

Aral, Of course! My site wouldn't be complete without them!!!

back-to-basics said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
United We Lay said...

Okay, I've said it before and I'll say it again: The only way to imrove educatiuon is to lower class size in grades K-8, demand parental responsibility for students in public schools, and make sure each student has a copy of every textbook they use in every class.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Kathleen, thanks again for the thoughts! I appreciate them.

Jamie Dawn, well...Jeb says he won't run...? Who knows...

Michelle, C U tomorrow!

Polanco, I agree with the last two. But is there any evidence you know of that promotes smaller class size? I'd like to hear both sides, and I haven't heard any good arguments for that.

mom of 4 said...

And I'd like to know what you propose they DO to those parents who refuse to be responsible - or claim to be too busy making ends meet to be involved in their child's education? I agree with your suggestion, but I don't see how it can be enforced.

Fred said...

I can very clearly see the impact of a smaller class size. During my first year, I had 40+ students in a few of my classes; this year I had no more than 33 or so. My ability to control the class was greatly enhanced with less students to deal with. And, if you have your classroom under control, more learning takes place.

What I disagree with is the amendment that legislates the solution. It is costly, and local districts should be free to develop their own solutions. What works in a rural county will not necessarily work in a large city.

These amendments are largely a product of special interest groups. This one is no different; it should go.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Mom of 4, go here to see my solution.

Fred, what you say certainly seems to be common sense. *I* would have thought it would be easier to control smaller groups, too. I was surprised by the studies! Perhaps more studies need to be made. But you're right, when the government begins to control situations like that, the solution can become more complicated than the problem.

Jessica said...

I can't speak to the situation in Florida, but I do support reducing class size to boost student achievement.

Smaller classes affect much more than classroom management. I taught high school writing classes with 39 students, and this is what I noticed:
* Not enough room (two students had to sit at my own desk, three others went without desks, at least 10 students had significant trouble seeing the chalkboard or overhead projector).
* Less class discussion with fewer participants.
* Long turn-around time for grading (especially research papers and lengthy feature articles).
* Less time for me to help students individually after school, before school, etc.

As for counting paraprofessional teachers for students with special needs (whether physical, learning, or emotional), I can understand that. The bulk of the para's time is spent working with the 3-5 students in a mainstream class who need modifications or accommodations to get the most out of the lesson. It's like having a translator in your classroom (but of course few schools can afford translators whereas they are legally obligated to provide special ed. support). The translator is critical for those two students who speak Hmong, but there's still only one instructor.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Jessica, very interesting contributions! Thanks so very much for joining the discussion. I read the article you posted. Isn't it interesting to see how completely opposite sides can build such compelling cases? I now feel that class size does indeed matter (as you and Fred said) but I still don't think it should be legislated as we have done.

mom of 4 said...

Saur,

Thanks for directing me to your previous KOOCs article - I agreed with it then, and I still agree with it now. My question was really directed at Polanco, because she didn't offer any methods.

But even with yours, what do you DO to the parents who don't attend the classes, pay the fines, etc? Do you just toss them out? I believe we would then create other social problems - crime, substance abuse, MORE teen pregnancy, etc. Also, what about all the families with excuses - you know the parents who NEED the classes will make every excuse to not be able to make them. I think there would be an accountability problem. I'm not saying I disagree with your suggestions. I have kids in Fundamental Schools, so I'm no stranger to rule following, but I don't see how it could be enforced without creating additional social problems.

Anonymous said...

Make all schools fundamental..with the exception of a few schools across the county. Those are for the children and parents that don't want to be involved or can't behave properly.

United We Lay said...

Pennsylvania has done a lot of research on this and has found that smaller class sizes in grades K-3 especially, help students a lot. There is much more individual attention, which children in that age group need. Teachers are able to work though each student's individual strengths and weaknesses when there are smaller class sizes, and at a young age, that is beneficial to the child.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Mom of 4, I would fine those parents, or have them perform community service. If nothing else, our highways would be cleaner. And eventually when a parent got good and sick of it all, they might actually do something about their kids.

Anonymous, I could be wrong, but I have heard that the fundamental schools aren't significantly different than the normal ones.

Polanco, Do you know of any broader studies by any chance? How are you settling into PA?

Fundamental Parent said...

Saur,

You said ".....I have heard that the fundamental schools aren't significantly different than the normal ones."

Not different in what ways? You're correct if you mean, class size and curriculum. But I'll tell you what ways they ARE different.

The students, parents, and school staff form a partnership. All know what their responsibilities are. They are clearly defined, written out, and a "contract" is signed each year. Discipline guidelines are also specific. Homework must be signed, parents must attend 6 out of 8 monthly parent meetings and attend conferences when required (conference requirements are different for elementary / middle school). If any of the "partners" do not meet their obligations, the progressive discipline kicks in, up to, and including, dismissal from the program. Did I mention behavior? There are behavior and dress code requirements also.

The results: Less time spent on classroom management = more time to teach. The children LEARN more, but not because the curriculum is different. The children also learn responsibility.

Why it works: The parents and the teachers are required to communicate. I've been in schools where the teachers don't want to be "bothered" by the parents. And I've been in schools where the parents feel that whatever happens at school is the "school's problem." Neither attitude works to the benefit of the children. Parents who choose to send their children to fundamental schools are also assured that the OTHER parents are doing their part as well.

It's not perfect. There are still parents who've heard that the education is better in fundamental, but don't like the rules. Well the rules are WHY it works. Maybe some rules are just to make it easier on the teachers, but so what? They are supposed to be TEACHING - and anything we can do to help them should be a priority.

Sorry this is long, but I thought it might help the discussion.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Fundamental Parent, the program sounds wonderful! What I heard was that the fundamental schools often turn a blind eye to behavioral problems because they want to project better stats than the regular schools. But if they are truly enforcing the contracts and following up, I am impressed.