I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Battle Lines Being Drawn Statewide on Class Size Amendment Revision

From the

“While the politicians work to pass a modified Class Size Reduction Constitutional Amendment in the fall that may or may not succeed, school boards will have to comply with current language without the money to do so”

Read the full article here

Yeah, that statement above pretty much sums it up.

That’s the reason this is an item I put on the agenda for this Thursday’s School Board discussion workshop. (Thursday, Feb 11 3PM Mcdaniel Bldg Downtown) Funding is going to be an issue if we intend to follow the law to the letter. I think a more important question is this—“what will the sanction/penalty be for those districts that do not comply?”—let’s face it-there will be many districts that will be unable to meet the requirements and will be out of compliance. I’m going to ask about Escambia’s plan to be in compliance at this meeting. We’ll see what the feedback will be from district staff.  I know that as a district we have done a good job with implementing the class size provisions thus far and spending class size dollars for class size projects.

Papers around the state are lining up to support Senator Don Gaetz’s proposed amendment to the 2002 Class Size Amendment in order to add some flexibility into the final phase of class size implementation.  I thought this article in the Panama City News Herald was right on target.  I also liked this one, this one and this one from Orlando.

Unfortunately, there will be some entrenched special interests that will rail against this needed remedy to the law.  These entities will scream and cry and yell and point fingers, I mean, who cares about the lack of money in the state budget?.  Some of these folks who will remain intractable on this issue must think we print money in Tallahassee!  (no, that's what they do in Washington D.C.)--and this hysteria and mayhem may be enough to derail the measure from achieving the necessary votes for passage in the fall.  That would be a shame.

I like small class sizes, I think they are beneficial.  But I don't believe that small classes are the one size fits all panacea--I think it has a lot more to do with having a great, effective teacher.  Some of the best courses I ever took in college were taught by one teacher and an assistant, and some of those classes had 70-100 students.  I took an Astronomy course that had over 120 students in attendance in a huge auditorium--and one amazingly great teacher and two aides.  I think teacher quality is a bigger factor in making classes more successful--not a mandated size cap---particularly in grades 9 and up.  There are arguments that can be made that the research is thin on the side of small class size benefits outweighing tremendous costs.  But that's another argument for others to have later;  We have to follow the law as it is currently written because it is the law--But I do think an inflexible formula to mandate firm fixed class sizes at the individual school classroom level(irregardless of economic realities and logistical nightmares outside our windows) is a recipe for disaster and/or blatant non-compliance by many.

It will be interesting to watch this play out.

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