March 27, 2012: The US Department of Education's own research shows that one element in a child's school life, beginning with early ed and continuing through high school, consistently makes a difference in closing the achievement gap -- in school and in adult life. That element is class size. Or, in old-fashioned terms, giving a child attention, recognition, individual help and encouragement. Or, in poetic terms -- W.H. Auden's line that human beings want "...not universal love/but to be loved alone."
So, hey, let's trash that idea.
Writing in Sunday's Washington Post's blog, "The Answer Sheet," Leonie Haimson, at left, executive director of the nonprofit Class Size Matters, and founder of the NYC Public School Parent blog, notes in "Ignoring a reform that works":
...both Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s proposed education budget and the GOP House bill to revise ESEA would sharply cut back on the amount of federal funds districts are able to spend on class size reduction.
Right now, districts choose to spend about 40 percent of their federal Title II funds to hire new teachers, or retain teachers already on staff, in order to keep class sizes as low as possible. The GOP-led House Elementary and Secondary Education Act bill would cap the level of Title II funds that can be spent on class size reduction at 10 percent, and Duncan’s budget would divert 25 percent of these funds to a new competitive grant program.
Both the U.S. Department of Education and the GOP House members give lip service to “local flexibility” but such measures would severely constrain the way districts choose to spend these critical resources. If either of these bills passed, many schools would be forced to increase class sizes to even higher levels in the future.
The proposals to cut back federal funds available for lowering class size ignores the fact that this reform is one of four K-12 strategies that have been proven to work through rigorous evidence, according to the Institute of Education Sciences, the research arm of the Department of Education. It is also one of the few reforms shown to effectively narrow the achievement gap, as poor and minority students receive twice the benefit of smaller classes than average students.
In addition, according to Alan Krueger, now head of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, the economic benefits of smaller classes outweigh the costs two to one. A recent study showed that students who were in smaller classes in kindergarten were more likely to have graduated from college, own their own home, and have a 401K more than twenty years later. ...