State approves class size waivers again. Larger classes and fewer teachers reflect financial free fall.

The AJC is reporting that the state school board waived class size requirements yet again, expecting that next school year may be the worst yet for financially strapped local systems.

A combination of state cuts, $1 billion this year, and plummeting property taxes, ongoing fallout from the housing collapse, will add to the financial stresses facing systems next year.

According to the AJC: This is an excerpt. Please read entire story.

On Thursday, the state school board unanimously approved extending the waiver for larger classes through the next school year. For students and parents, this could mean more students in some classrooms and fewer teachers.

Maximum class size requirements vary. For instance, state law says a regular kindergarten class should have no more than 18 students, while a fine arts or foreign language class in grades 6-8 can have 33 students. In addition to the state waiver, school systems also have permission from lawmakers to establish class size averages, meaning they can take an English class with 30 students and one with 10 for an average class size of 20.

“They don’t want to do this. They don’t have a choice,” said Garry McGiboney, associate state school superintendent for policy and charter schools. “For some systems, their solvency is going to depend on things like this.”

Cobb County is adding two students per classroom at all grade levels, a move that will allow the school system to cut 250 teaching jobs. Studies and common sense suggest that classrooms with fewer students are better learning environments, said Cobb school district spokesman Jay Dillon.

“Unfortunately, the economic reality is that we are facing a $62 million deficit, and 90 percent of our operating budget is committed to payroll,” Dillon said.

The state has been giving school systems blanket waivers from mandatory class sizes since the 2009-2010 school year. Other requirements have been relaxed. Most notably, school systems have been allowed to abandon the traditional 180-day calendar, which two-thirds have done to save money, even though they’re required to maintain the same hours of instruction.

Metro area districts have seen property values and taxes drop significantly and have been told they’re not yet at the bottom. McGiboney said staff at the state Department of Education has been concerned about the potential impact on student achievement, but doesn’t have enough data yet to draw any firm conclusions.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

83 comments Add your comment

Fled

February 17th, 2012
9:37 am

More bad news for the teachers and students of Georgia. The steady stream of bad news never seems to end. I don’t know how 34 kids could fit into the classrooms I worked in. How anyone is going to give excellent instruction under such circumstances is beyond me. It simply is not possible to be effective when teaching kids has been replaced by managing kids.

If you choose to remain in a failing system in a failing state (thanks, republicans), then you must also accept you are participating in your own oppression. Teachers, there are many places that will welcome you with open arms. In fact, several international educational recruiters have told me that Georgia remains one of the best places for them. Georgia teachers have reputations for being hard workers and not complaining (too much, anyway). Teachers of Georgia, you have skills that are in demand. You don’t have to take it anymore unless you are so beaten down that you have given up on yourself.

Had enough yet, teachers?

Give up. Throw in the towel. Flee.

ByteMe

February 17th, 2012
9:43 am

Hey, I got a great idea! Why not siphon away more state money for Charter Schools!!!

:roll:

Insert your own snark about “Go Fish!” here.

crankee_yankee

February 17th, 2012
9:48 am

Imagine my surprise. I thought the legislature was going to focus on important issues this year and stay away from hot-button items that would eat up time. I guess that is why they are floating bills like allowing guns to be carried in schools but are avoiding coming up with a better way of funding those same schools.
Oh, I see it now, over-max the classrooms, generate a rats-in-a-cage situation but give the teachers guns so they can control things. Brilliant.

question

February 17th, 2012
9:56 am

As I read the article, I wondered why the reporter(s) quoted everyone “associated” with education: parents, Tim Callahan, etc, but did not report any quotes from teachers – the true front line in this situation. Or, for that matter, any kids. What happened? Would no one quote on the record or was it an oversight? Wouldn’t teachers be able to best explain the impact on their daily professional requirements?

carlosgvv

February 17th, 2012
9:59 am

When I was in school, in the 40’s and 50’s, classes always had at least 30 students and often times more. No one ever complained. Why is it such a bad thing now?

cris

February 17th, 2012
10:00 am

@Crankee – with a max of 35 students in my room, the gun is for myself, not the students

cris

February 17th, 2012
10:01 am

@carlos….behavior was quite different in the 40’s and 50’s

Maureen Downey

February 17th, 2012
10:02 am

@Question, I assume the story was written out of the meeting yesterday, which the reporter attended. (Those meetings can go most of the day.) The folks quoted were likely at the meeting. (I give the reporter credit for getting parents’ comments in the piece, given that reporters have to turn these pieces around in less than a hour sometimes.)
What often happens is that the news story is written off the news — the board action at the board meeting Thursday — and then a follow is done that goes deeper.
Maureen

Mountain Man

February 17th, 2012
10:08 am

“Why is it such a bad thing now?”

I am sure that teachers will tell you that maintaining discipline in a class of forty is no different than with 25 students. Also, the level on one-on-one assistance for kids who need it is no different in a class of forty , either. In the 40s and 50s we didn’t have SPED students in the regular classrooms, students who failed attended summer school or were just “held back”, and discipline was not a problem, because a the “board of education” was ready.

Atlanta Mom

February 17th, 2012
10:12 am

I’d like to say I’m surprised, but that would be a lie.

ScienceTeacher671

February 17th, 2012
10:16 am

I wonder what the fire marshal has to say about 35 students in a room built for 25?

frustrated APS mom

February 17th, 2012
10:24 am

Yet another thing to be frustrated about. My kindergartner’s class has 24 students. My fifth grader’s class has 30. Don’t start with the whole “back in the day all our classes were that big” argument. I see a HUGE difference in the quality of their education since the class sizes have been rising. I think it is awful. The kids are stuffed into the classrooms and don’t even have anywhere to put their things. The teachers are overwhelmed and let discipline slide. The feedback from teachers is nearly nonexistent. So depressing.

Old timer

February 17th, 2012
10:26 am

In 1976 I had 42 in my reading class……guess what…they all did well on the ITBS…..they learned….big difference…they behaved!

TeacherMom4

February 17th, 2012
10:27 am

Great advice, Fled. Unless you own a home you can’t sell, have a spouse who will need a job, and children who will need to be fed, clothed and housed. My mother tells me stories of teaching 35-40 elementary kids in the the ’60s. The difference is discipline and parental expectations. She only paddles a child once, at the mother’s insistence. The kids behaved because it was a societal expectation. They worked hard because it was a societal expectation. If I work with an individual child or small group now, the rest of my students act like they are on an in-school vacation, even if they are supposed to be working on a clearly defined and “engaging” task. I can help the ones who need it only as long as I can count on the others to do what they’ve been told to do. Really, most will only work if they think I’m watching them, even if they know the work they are doing will be for a grade and “counts”. And yes, we talk a lot about how the goal for learning is not just for grades and tests but personal growth and foundational knowledge for later learning. The more kids there are, the less time on task there seems to be.

crankee_yankee

February 17th, 2012
10:27 am

@SciTeach

Probably not much. Too busy citing the building for having posters too close to the door, flammable airplane models hanging from the ceiling, & my favorite…”congested storage room.”

Michelle-Middle School

February 17th, 2012
10:28 am

@chris and @crankee-yankee, I totally agree. Any idiot who has never stepped into a classroom as a teacher can not make the decision regarding class size. Size DOES make a significant difference. One must also remember that schools built in recent years were not built with enough room to allow 30 or 40 students without stacking desks. In middle school, the closer the students are together, the more rambunctious they become. Believe it or not, socializing is a major issue and priority for almost all the students.

I am amazed that the State of Georgia cannot adequately fund schools, yet they consider moving funds from public school to charter and private schools. If public schools really want to improve, they need to make cuts in non-academic areas. Why in the world is there a basketball program in middle school when every county seems to have a recreation league basketball program. This is just one example where “priorities” are the issue. Is little Johnny better off if he can read or he can dribble?

Stand by your public school teachers and stop ignoring that many parents don’t give a hoot about disciplining their child, they never enforce any consequences for bad behavior, and they slam the teacher every time possible. Little Johnny’s attitude comes from home more than school. And, what about our lazy society? These children live in a land of “entitlement”, which is built into our current culture. How can a student on “free lunch” afford an $80 per month iPhone? Yes, our priorities are in the toilet.

world we live in, in cobb

February 17th, 2012
10:34 am

Well, if they can waiver to increase the class size – waiver to decrease the school year calendar from 180 days – then they need to waiver all the requirements students have to make on the standardized tests( that which they hold teachers accountable for).
At some point the ability to do more with considerably less reaches a saturation point…

Group By Ability

February 17th, 2012
10:43 am

Just wanted to add that not only could teachers enforce discipline in their classrooms back-in-the day, but students were evaluated for aptitude and ability grouped accordingly. This is an important concept. Research is clear that student cohorts should be maintained to a maximum of three different levels per class. This allowed teachers to teach larger groups b/c they were cohesive. Why don’t we do that now… particularly in elementary school? Well shucks, we don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. Meanwhile, education goes swirling around the bowl. BTW — my child’s elementary school parsed out kids per class based upon… wait for it… their last name. What a dumb approach.

crankee_yankee

February 17th, 2012
10:54 am

@Fled
My daughter is in a poor system. It was all that was available when she graduated 2 years ago. I told her to look outside this state for her own sanity. She now knows what I meant.

@Carlos
Discipline, or lack thereof, is a major contributing factor to increased class size problems. I have a kid in class currently who is misbehaving, had a conference w/mom & she blames the school for all his problems (academic as well as behavioral). He is failing & she has done nothing to support any change in his behavior, does not agree to his detentions or any of the other behavior mods we try to institute. We just “do not understand him.” Rubbish, he gets his cues from home & the rest of the kids in class suffer for it. But he cannot be removed to another class since they are all overcrowded and there just is nowhere to put him so all he sees is no consequences, backed up by mom. Did your mom make excuses for you back in the 40’s & 50’s?

crankee_yankee

February 17th, 2012
10:59 am

For all those who think class sizes do not matter, get approved to be a substitute teacher and step into our shoes for a day. Methinks you might change your perspective.

Brandy

February 17th, 2012
11:04 am

Right now, even in East Cobb, classrooms are so overcrowded you could not add another desk to the room! Two more students might save money on paper–but the school buildings were not built to house such large classes.

Of course, they are trying to keep the parents with power and voices (read: money) from finding out. The AC and Gifted classes, while slightly larger than ever before, trend well under the class size recommendations (obviously, that is all they are now). The on-level and below-level classes are taking up all of the slack, including many of the AC and Gifted kids who won’t fit in those classes. People need to speak up.

crankee_yankee

February 17th, 2012
11:05 am

Typo – should be “…nor any other…”

Beverly Fraud

February 17th, 2012
11:26 am

“They don’t want to do this. They don’t have a choice,” said Garry McGiboney, associate state school superintendent for policy and charter schools. “For some systems, their solvency is going to depend on things like this.”

But they DO have a choice…it’s called cut ADMINISTRATIVE BLOAT. But do you think the ADMINISTRATORS at DOE want to admit this is a problem, or do they want people to believe, “we’ve cut to the bone”?

V for Vendetta

February 17th, 2012
11:32 am

To all who say class sizes don’t matter if you have discipline . . .

You’re right.

But we don’t have ANY discipline. Sigh.

crankee_yankee

February 17th, 2012
11:35 am

@group by…

You are so right when it comes to grouping. Scheduling of any kind is now out of the teacher’s hands. I teach a MS connections class. In the past, my department would get together and review our upcoming classes. When we saw possible conflicts we adjusted our class roles amongst us to minimize them. Can’t do that anymore. With the advent of computer scheduling, we no longer have any input and the person doing the scheduling does not know the kids. She is a low paid clerk who just runs the numbers according to her training. What is easiest for her? Run the kids alphabetically. The kids are grouped the same way in class after class, year after year. They become overly familiar with each other, build close friendships within the class and work on thier socialization skills ad nauseum in class. When we ask to be able to give input to scheduling decisions, we are told nothing can be done, the computer can’t accomodate that kind of scheduling, hogwash.

catlady

February 17th, 2012
12:33 pm

“McGiboney said staff at the state Department of Education has been concerned about the potential impact on student achievement, but doesn’t have enough data yet to draw any firm conclusions.”

However, he said, they will fund 5-6 “advisory” positions at $100,000 for members of the governor’s family. The advisors are expecting to invent data to justify the move within the next 3 years. TIC

Ron F.

February 17th, 2012
1:17 pm

It’s definitely easier to teach to 20 than to 35, but I’ve done both and lived to tell about it. It’s not about the number of kids, it’s about the teacher’s attitude about it. I don’t like having 35 at one time in a high school class, but that just means I have to set and enforce the rules. I can do that.

cris

February 17th, 2012
1:35 pm

@Ron – I try to keep a positive attitude as well…but dang it, sometimes it’s difficult….I currently have a class with 32…..1/4 which are special ed/504 kids….I don’t feel that I’m doing a good job for any of them…..

Ole Guy

February 17th, 2012
1:38 pm

Carlosgvv, I believe you’ve struck a very good issue. The problems faced by the educational systems are certainly challenging. However, many of these issues have been perceived as insurmountable; terrible terrible awful awful problems simply because the HAVE BEEN ALLOWED TO BECOME SO. These people have become so gd lazy…the mere thought of actually having to ADAPT to economic reality causes the organizational TILT mechanism to go full swing. Unfortunatly, these kids are going to become as rigid and as inflexible as their parents (the idiot 30/40 sometimes of the day) and leaders.

Lee

February 17th, 2012
1:45 pm

But wait, according to the resident AJC Obama schill, Jay Bookman, Barry Bailout saved GM and the US economy is back in the land of milk and honey.

Bookman lied. Knock me over with a feather….

The Deal

February 17th, 2012
1:57 pm

There are other reasons why larger classes used to work and no longer work anymore in addition to discipline. Teachers in these days have very specific requirements of what they have to teach. Teachers in the “old” days could just go with the flow in their classes. Teachers are under tremendous pressure now to teach topics, test on them by a specific date, and all that jazz, much more difficult with more students.

crankee_yankee

February 17th, 2012
2:21 pm

@ OldGuy

I arive at school @7:30 for an 8:30 start time. Kids arrive @ 8:50. I teach 6 periods. My planning period is also my lunch period. Classes “end” at 4:00 but not really. Bus call goes ’til almost 4:30, can’t just throw the little darlings out the door before their bus arrives. I then finally have some time where I can plan the next day’s lessons (I need to plan for 4 different classes), update my website, write reports on any issues requiring it, all the additional paperwork I am now required to complete to “prove” I am doing my job, contact parents on any of a number of issues, deal with club issues or meetings (yes I sponsor a student after/before school club) and feel comfortable leaving around 6:00 pm. I’m paid a salary based on an 8 hour day but regularly put in 10 – 10 1/2 hours.

I won’t even count the additional time I spend attending staff development afetr school (without pay), conferences (on my own dime) & training (ditto) to keep my skills up to date “adapting” to the changes in educational philosophy, etc.

I guess you’re right, I’m just too “gd lazy”. I better set my alarm for an earlier wake-up. Probably should put in 12 hours for 8 hours pay I have been told by my administration I should be happy to be getting because “…after all, (I) have a job.”

Ole Guy

February 17th, 2012
2:28 pm

Deal, these are, unfortunately, the educational realities with which the teacher corps must grapple. In short…teachers of the late 20th/21st centurys are not allowed to do their jobs; they must, instead, appease the gods of pc and their “keepers”/the administrators and educational leaders who have miserably failed in their responsibilities of fostering generations in preparing for this crazy world.

While supposedly wise people, who dare to employ nom de plumes which suggest a base of knowledge (are you out there…PROF?) insist that any mere thought of teacher solidarity, by way of unionization, is simply to be considered a non-issue, simply because…OH, IT”S NOT ALLOWED…teachers remain, in sad fact of reality, handmaidens of educational fallacy. Teachers are/should be the ONLY source of the HOW TO TEACH bible…not parents, not administrators, not legislators and government “leaders” who, every now and then, come out with some half-baked notion of how teachers should be doing their jobs.

Deal, if teachers could do their jobs AS THEY PROFESSIONALLY SEE FIT, it wouldn’t matter if their classes had to be conducted in a theater using bullhorns and microphones. The problems you outline are, indeed, the reality du jour, however, they need not be.

C Jae of EAV

February 17th, 2012
2:36 pm

I’m no educator, but I’ve spent time as parent over the years observing classrooms and there is no doubt in my mind that class size MATTERS !!

In my experience even in a small class (of say 15-18), all it takes is 2-3 disruptive students to throw the balance of the class off. You double that size to 25-30 and the level of disruption increases to a point beyond the average teacher’s ability to maintain order.

This approach may save a buck, but will manifest unintended consequences!!

Ole Guy

February 17th, 2012
3:00 pm

Yankee, as one yankee to another…QUITCHERBITCHIN! The issues you outline are, indeed, the realities of education. Your job provides enough “hoops” for you to practice your multi-tasking skills. You, the teacher corps, have assumed these tasks by virtue of the fact that you have chosen the profession. As you dutifully go about the job of addressing these tasks, you ALLOW THE INFLUENCES OF THOSE WHO HAVE NO IDEA WHATSOEVER ON EDUCATIONAL MATTERS to rule the conduct of your job.

The lazy reference (perhaps SCARED, TIMID, or simply FREIGHTENED INTO FRUITLESS ACTION might be more appropos) is aimed at the fact that you “dance to the tune”…you dutifully accomplish these tasks which, while certainly appreciated, accomplish little in the way of actually turning out generations which are prepared to deal with, and conquor, the challenges presented by this crazy world.

While I’ve “suggested” the unionization of teachers many times as the only way you, the teacher corps, can be truly effective in your zeal to teach, no one, within the teacher corps, seems to want to rock the boat of status quo. You will describe, in great detail, the hoops which you daily must negotiate…attend meetings, work during so-called free times, work on furlough days, etc, etc, etc. All-too-often, these descriptions remind me of the “Joan of Arc” complex…those who are willing to sacrifice themselves in the interests of larger-than-self issues. While indeed admirable…SOLDIERS DON’T HAVE TO WANT TO DIE IN THE PERFORMANCE OF DUTY. A soldier, in wearing the uniform, always knows that death is a very real possibility, however, a good soldier will not needlessly place his head on the sacrificial altar. This is exactly what you do…every time you go on with the “woe is me” recounting of all the hoops which are shoved in your “duty paths”.

The day when I see someon, within the teacher corps, have the guts to lead the way toward effective teacher solidarity…not this MACE crap or other tea-and-crumpet organizations…that’s when I, the public, and more importantly, your students, will have respect for your efforts.

high school teacher

February 17th, 2012
3:24 pm

Fled, great idea. You wanna buy our house? We’re only about 40K upside down right now…

Just A Teacher

February 17th, 2012
3:31 pm

@ Ole Guy . . . I’m ready. Where and when is the organizational meeting? And just so you don’t doubt my sincerity, I should tell you that before I got into teaching, I tried to bring the United Steelworkers into a Georgia wire company. I lost my job over that one, but would do it again since I saw people getting injured and sometimes killed in an unsafe work environment for little more than minimum wage. I am also the son of a United Teamsters official, so I’m all for unionization. I say we organize, go on strike, and bring this state to its knees!

Brandy

February 17th, 2012
3:59 pm

@Just A Teacher & Ole Guy…Should we start a drive to post bail for you all, just in case? ;-) JK

We might be on different radars ideologically most of the time, but, boy, am I with you on the union!

crankee_yankee

February 17th, 2012
4:05 pm

@Ole Guy

Must be nice sitting there telling us what we should do. I’ve been a member of NEA since my first year of teaching & am well aware of the power it wields in states where it is recognized as the collective bargaining agent. I have gone out on strike, up north.
But when a state legislates collective bargaining out of existence, you have to be willing to take a bullet (in this state, that might be literally) and never work again in the profession. I can’t do that, my ill wife needs my insurance. Will I cross a picket line if one gets set up? No. Will I set it up? Not at this time. I need to have nothing to lose. He/she who takes that stand will lose all he/she has worked for.
So I will continue to bitch, point out the fallacies others purport, and hope, someday, enough citizens see the fools the legislature is populated with and vote them out of office. Not likely here.

Dr. Monica Henson

February 17th, 2012
4:21 pm

I’m curious to know which “studies” Cobb district spokesman Jay Dillon is referencing that suggest, along with “common sense,” that “classrooms with fewer students are better learning environments.” As there are none, other than the studies that suggest, quite strongly, that in the primary grades and in classes composed of high-risk students at older grade levels, should be limited in order to create maximum impact on student achievement outcomes. Quite simply, the research base over the last several decades is clear that decreasing class size does NOT increase teacher effectiveness. Excellent teachers teach in an outstanding manner regardless of whether they have a large class or a small class. The same holds true for mediocre and poor teachers–teachers do not change THE WAY THEY TEACH when their class size is lowered.

I have posted at great length in other topics on this blog about the many ways that teachers can work smarter, not harder, to provide accomplished instruction that gets great results when they are faced with larger classes. I acknowledge that there may be some situations when administrative fiat dictates so much in terms of kill-and-drill and test prep that teacher creativity is stymied.

I taught English for several years in classes of 30 to 35, heterogeneously grouped middle schoolers, approximately 15% special education inclusion, many English Language Learners, in a Title I district with more than 50 languages spoken,in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The largest class I have ever taught, outside of college lecturing, had 37 kids. My students consistently scored at the top of the charts in the state on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) tests, which are not simple bubble-sheet tests. I assigned plenty of writing and used John Collins and Nancie Atwell, among others, as resources to learn methods by which to maximize my ability to provide meaningful feedback when marking essays. My kids wrote research papers (even in middle school) and many essays. I had five kids of my own at home to raise, and I was able to have a life.

When I became department chair of the comprehensive high school, many of my previous 8th graders signed up for my sophomore and senior English classes, so I was able to see that they scored well on SAT and AP exams, not just state tests, in small part as a result of being taught well in my high school English courses.

It’s not impossible to teach large classes. What it takes is excellent teaching, strong administrative leadership that supports such teaching, and the simple will and ability to do it and do it well. Is it easier to teach a class of 12 students than a class of 32? It’s a lot less paperwork. But the class discussions and projects are not nearly as lively and fun. And it’s like shooting fish in a barrel, in terms of challenge.

irisheyes

February 17th, 2012
4:27 pm

Where do I sign up for the union? I was just thinking yesterday as I sat next to one of my students for 20 minutes trying to get her to write two sentences that with 25, I can’t give each of them the attention they need and deserve.

frustrated APS mom

February 17th, 2012
4:57 pm

My 6 year old spends half his day sitting and waiting for the other kids to finish their work so he can move on to the next thing. There are 4 kids in the class (including mine) that are way ahead of the others. They have to sit quietly with their hands in their laps until the other kids are done, which is torture for him. They won’t even let him read a book while he waits. Lame! My 11 year old spends a good bit of his time at school being used as a free tutor for the stragglers. Lame! If they would group the kids according to ability, then I wouldn’t mind the class size being larger, but they just don’t. Why won’t they do this? How hard could it possibly be? And like I said before, there isn’t enough physical space for the kids that are stuffed into these rooms. You can throw every study under the sun at me and I still won’t buy the argument that class size doesn’t matter.

Dr. Monica Henson

February 17th, 2012
5:03 pm

@frustrated APS mom: What you are describing is not a class size problem–it’s a TEACHER problem. Making children sit and wait on others, or making them tutor the lesser skilled children, is educational malpractice. The reason why students are no longer grouped according to ability levels is because it has been demonstrated (1) the “best” teachers are assigned to the “best” kids, which increases the achievement gap between the highest- and lowest-performing kids and (2) effective differentiation of instruction plus research-based, effectively implemented cooperative learning has been shown to provide strong benefits to all levels of learners. The key is that the teacher must be able to teach well, and what you are describing, which is the opposite of good teaching, is sadly all too common.

I do agree that there has to be sufficient physical space in order to accommodate the numbers if class sizes are increased.

Anonmom

February 17th, 2012
8:47 pm

They need a rule that 75% or 80% of all funds must be spent in the classroom… then the adminsitrative bloat would have to be addressed. The fraud and corruption could maybe be minimized. We waste so much money and the state DOE just goes and gives “passes” like this and the kids suffer. The kids deserve small class sizes and attention from teachers… the problems get compounded becasue teachers lose their patience more easily in such crowded rooms… it’s no fun for the kids and they can’t learn and they hate school and it’s hard to get back once they lose it. My son lost it in 9th grade and as a college sophomore he still hasn’t really gotten it back. Teachers should have supported Barnes … you didn’t know how good you had it.

crankee_yankee

February 17th, 2012
11:06 pm

@ Dr MH

I agree with your assertion that having students sit & wait for others to catch up is poor teaching. Having students teach others, not necessarily, though, in the case mentioned, probably is.
There are studies that support peer coaching/tutoring/teaching. It solidifies understanding in the tutor and there is a large program utilizing it in my district.

Yet, I cannot agree with one of the assertions concerning why ability grouping should be avoided. If I follow you, 1) the “good” students will get the “good” teachers. Who is responsible for that? Maybe the administrators? Put the blame where it belongs. Don’t pan a legitimate question about a delivery modality by glossing over an administrative failure. Yes, 2) cooperative learning & differentiation are proven modalities. Just don’t try to bolster #2 with the administrative failure of #1.

I'm a teacher

February 18th, 2012
1:25 am

@ Dr. MH
I agree with you and crankee yankee about the sit and wait but also with CY about the rest of your post. I also want to point out that one of the benefits mentioned in studies that support multi-ability grouping is the peer coaching (which is similar to tutoring) where the higher level students “coach” or help the lower level students.
Also MH, you make a blanket statement class size is only an issue if the teacher is not good enough to handle it – I beg to differ. I teach high school science – try doing physics and chemistry labs with more than around 28 (which happens to be the state suggested limit – but is never adhered to) students – even with well behaved, on task students having more than 28-29 students is a safety concern.

Janet

February 18th, 2012
2:03 am

@frustrated APS mom — I feel you!! I am a frustrated Gwinnett mom whose kindergartener has 26 kids in her class…. and it is chaotic!

We are experiencing the same sort of things where my kid, while she may not be gifted, is one of the high achievers of the class and spends ALOT of time waiting around and/or helping the other kids do their work. I am a weekly volunteer in the classroom and I see how many of the other kids (especially the younger boys) come up to my daughter and ask her for help with reading and/or repeating the directions for them because they weren’t paying attenton or sometimes helping them clean up. It’s astonishing how much time she spends assisting or cleaning up after her classmates and it’s all because she always finishes her assignments so much earlier. She doesn’t seem to mind because she thinks she’s just being helpful and wants to please. But I do mind!!!!! I want her to actively be learning in school, not serve as the helper.

Let’s just say frustrated is not the right word for what I feel……

Beverly Fraud

February 18th, 2012
3:01 am

Much like self help gurus who reference each other in “support” of their positions, educators have been known to do the same. Check out the following for some enlightenment on one so called educational magic bullet

In a recent Education Week article, ASCD author Mike Schmoker took a bear claw swipe at the practice of using differentiated instruction in the classroom, calling it a “novelty” that unnecessarily complicates teachers’ work.

He begins:

“Several years ago, I had a courteous, if troubling, e-mail exchange with the architect of a hugely popular instructional innovation. She had heard that I had been criticizing this approach. (I had.) In a series of e-mails, I explained my reasons, starting with the fact that there was no research or strong evidence to support its widespread adoption. I asked, with increasing importunity, for any such evidence. Only after multiple requests did I finally receive an answer:
******There was no solid research or school evidence.*******

Beverly Fraud

February 18th, 2012
3:04 am

There are those who would imply that differentiated instruction should be accepted with the same degree of certainty as the law of gravity.

It shouldn’t; and let’s not make the mistake that the same level of irrefutable evidence is there for both.

Ron F.

February 18th, 2012
9:49 am

Beverly- we’re having to deal with the “differentiated instruction” wave of popularity in my district. I find that it sounds good to admins who haven’t taught in years or became admins because they couldn’t teach very well. As I told my instructional coach the other day, “differentiated instruction is a buzzword for what good teachers do all the time- teach different kids using different methods that work because you know the kids.” I do what I have to to appease the powers-that-be, and they regularly praise my teaching skills. I just smile and roll my eyes after they leave…