Friday, June 15, 2007

Smaller Class Sizes: Additional Impacts

In the last post talking about the new Baltimore super, Andres Alonso had mentioned that smaller class sizes meant more teacher flight from low performing schools to higher performing schools.

But there is an additional impact that seems to have been missed by parents and policy makers--at least here in Maryland. That is the issue of portable classrooms-the scourge of schools statewide and whose presence all but guarantees intense blowback from parents.

Let us say that an elementary school in Maryland is built to accomodate 500 students at a student teacher ration of 20:1. That means there needs to be 25 classrooms. Let us further admit that the school system anticipated that the school would have to operate at 125 percent of capactiy, for a total enrollment of 625 at a maximum student teacher ratio of 25 to 1. Which would still allow for 25 classrooms at what most people would say is an unacceptably high student-teacher ratio. Assume again that the school board, the parents and the teachers want to have a class size of 18 to 1. That means that this school would need 35 classrooms (625/18=34.72). So a school with 25 classrooms would need 10 portable classrooms. Maybe the school planners possessed great vision and perhaps the school was built with 30 classrooms to anticiapte that growth, that still means that the school needs five portable classrooms.

Therefore, in addition to the teacher quality issues I have spoken about, and the teacher mobility issues from lower quality schools to higher quality schools, smaller class sizes all but guarantee that the school will need portables. So the parents, teachers and school boards hoping to have smaller class sizes must accept the bad (portable classrooms) with the so-called good (smaller classes).

I am not saying that smaller class sizes are necessarily a bad policy, but they are a policy with far more costs associated with them than they may be worth in terms of improved education for the students.

No comments: