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LETTER: Class Size Affects Your Kids

Framingham Teachers Association President: "The number of students in a class directly impacts the time that a teacher can provide individual attention and appropriate differentiation of instruction."

In a recent survey of middle school teachers in the Framingham Public School system, during the first trimester there were 45 classrooms that violated the school committee policy on maximum class size. I have good reason to believe that these violations are continuing into the second trimester.

This policy, stating that a core content and world language classroom should have a maximum of 25 students, can be found in the online policy Manual located at http://framingham.k12.ma.us/sc.cfm in Section I, File IIB.

The number of students in a class directly impacts the time that a teacher can provide individual attention and appropriate differentiation of instruction.

While this bothers the staff in these classrooms, there is nothing they can do about it. In fact, there is nothing the Framingham Teachers Association can do about this either. Our teachers want all students to be successful and allow them the opportunity to grow and learn like all other students in their school and across the district.

If there was specific language in the contract regarding class size, then the Framingham Teachers Association would be able to do something to ensure these students have the same opportunities for differentiation and individual time as their peers.

All towns bordering Framingham except Marlborough have some type of language regarding a maximum number of students per teacher.

Some may say that Framingham is different from the towns that border it. By looking at districts that DESE considers comparable, using the DESE DART tools (http://profiles.doe.mass.edu/analysis/default.aspx?orgcode=01000000&orgtypecode=5&), you can find nine other districts similar to Framingham. Of those nine other districts (Attleboro, Cambridge, Haverhill, Marlborough, Medford, Peabody, Salem, Waltham, West Springfield, Westfield), all but Marlborough and Westfield have class size language in their contracts.

All of these contracts are available online at http://educatorcontracts.doemass.org/contents.aspx

The inaction of the Framingham School Committee and the Superintendent on maintaining their policy is disheartening to teachers and impacts the kids.

To this end, the teachers association is working to place language into the contract that would codify the guidelines.

If you believe that the guidelines should be followed and that this language is important to the entire community, please make your thoughts known.

Sam Miskin

FTA President

Herb Chasan January 14, 2013 at 01:05 AM
If anyone is interested in the class size issue and research, check out: Class Size Matters, a non-profit, non-partisan clearinghouse for information on class size and the proven benefits of smaller classes http://www.classsizematters.org
Linda Dunbrack January 14, 2013 at 01:25 AM
Wow! Pretty judgmental, aren't you Derek or whatever your real name is? That is a pretty broad brush to be using based on anecdote. You should read the study Herb posted the link to. I don't believe in throwing money at a problem, but I do believe in making strategic investments in education.
Derek from Framingham January 14, 2013 at 03:38 PM
Linda I said my opinion was based from the trenches - it was not sitting down by the old Oak tree listening to Grandpa Walton entertaining us with one of his 'anecdotes'. I base it on what I hear from my kids, their friends, other parents, what I have actually seen myself when volunteering at a school event and probably most importantly from friends and relatives that are teachers. So although that info is not bound into a nicely wrapped 'definitive study' it is a little more than anecdotal. And if you are calling me judgmental because I believe parents should still take full responsibility for their children - then I'm guilty as charged. I do agree that strategic investments in education obviously make sense. But buying 20 more teachers and patting ourselves on the back with an ok we've licked that education issue lets just sit back and watch those test scores go to the moon is delusion (I'm not saying that this is your position but more of general commentary on the give everything to schools crowd.) This is just what that crowd doesn't get. If your going to spend money either use it to directly incentivize kids or use it for a program (if one even exists) that gets parents more involved with their kids education.
Linda Dunbrack January 14, 2013 at 06:24 PM
It's still anecdotal evidence. I have heard countless stories of kids who act out in class because they are bright and bored in school, but aren't problems at home. Is this a parent problem? Likewise, there are plenty of kids who act out in school who are bored because because they have disabilities, or learn best in a non-auditory modality. They simply can't follow the material. They may or not have behavior problems at home. Sure, there are plenty of cases where there is a lack of discipline at home, but there are many root causes for behavioral problems. Sometimes a teacher with poor behavior management skills is also part of the equation.
Diane Tiger January 29, 2013 at 11:21 AM
I spent many years as a corporate trainer of new college grads entering the workforce. These are people being paid to sit in class. I have taught classes ranging in size from 7 to 30. I can tell you from my experience that the higher the class size the harder it is to really gauge the true abilitues of anyone other than the highest and lowest performers, and behavior problems. Adding another trainer helps, but not as much as lowering the class size. I can only imagine how exponentially harder this must be with children. I think you need to trust the teachers a little more on the effects of class size. If you have never spent your days standing in front of an overcrowded room of students you will be lacking important experience to fully inform your opinion on the topic, no matter how many studies you read. Try talking to an actual teacher or volunteering in a classroom. It may change your perspective.

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