LETTER: 'Less work' a specious argument
In response to John Elmore: “More money for more teacher work,” Times, June 5.
I’m guessing you have never taught when you state that “the demand for smaller classes and more teaching assistants is really a demand for less work.” The demand for smaller classes and more help is to create a better learning experience for the students.
It has been reported in the media and several studies have concluded that having smaller class sizes does not show statistical differences in student achievement. Studies and tests that focus on standard achievement don’t measure important intangibles.
Students that are struggling to meet expectations in reading, writing, and math at their grade level often benefit the most from the individual attention of their teacher. The more students you add to a class, the less individual attention can be given to each student. The more individual attention a teacher can give a student who is struggling to meet grade level expectations, the better the chance that student has to catch up to his or her peers.
Improvements made by struggling students would be unlikely to show any statistical significance on a standardized test, as these students are often just trying to stay afloat. But to the overall progress of these students, having more individual time with their teacher is vital.
Until the recent lockout, I hosted a homework club in my classroom once a week after school for 45 minutes. The three or four students I worked with in this short time learned more and improved in these homework club sessions than they would in the class-wide lessons and work periods for a whole week.
When I had the time to work closely with these students and monitor their work, they flourished. There is no way to give them this kind of attention in a full classroom.
Obviously, we can’t have a classroom with just five students, but this example highlights the real reason teachers want smaller class sizes and more support. It has nothing to do with “less work.” It’s a simple fact: the more students you stuff into a classroom means the teacher will have a little less individual time to focus on each student.
The students that are meeting or exceeding grade level expectations can often get by with less individual help and interaction, but the students that are struggling just fall further behind.