Education Roundup: Does Class Size Matter?

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  • Speaking of ridiculous, an “A” student at a Virginia middle school was recently suspended for opening the door for a visitor who had her hands full. (H/T Boing Boing) Apparently, his actions undermined a district policy that prohibits students from committing random acts of chivalry in entryways, The Tidewater News reports.
  • On the student protest front, 200 Dallas high school students staged a walkout to save the jobs of 32 teachers and staff who might get fired due to budget cuts. In Idaho, hundreds of junior high and high school students walked out of class in protest of “education reforms,” which include required online classes, larger class sizes, 770 terminated teaching positions, and increased minimum pay for teachers.
  • Also skeptical of flavor-of-the-month “reform” is MoJo‘s Kevin Drum, who writes that instead of spending billions on K-12 education, we’d get more bang for our buck if we invested heavily in early intervention programs.
  • Bill Gates took to the Washington Post‘s op-ed page to promote a few educational reforms. One idea: increase classroom size selectively to allow the most effective teachers to educate more students. “Eighty-three percent of teachers said they would be happy to teach more students for more pay,” Gates wrote. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan suggests that each highly-effective teacher could receive a pay increase of $20,000 to $25,000 to teach five additional students; parents would then be given the option of whether to place their kids in these larger classrooms. Hang on a minute, says Education Week‘s Anthony Cody. Suggesting that class size doesn’t matter just means “there are going to be wholesale increases in class size across the board, for every teacher, at every grade level,” Cody writes. And if the large body of research linking class size and student achievement is correct, that would be bad news for students in places like Oakland, where Cody taught for 18 years. Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that public schools nationwide are already loosening legal restrictions on class size anyway to save money.
  • Should the federal government spend $77 billion on education in 2012? Some Congressional Republicans argue that states should foot the bill for education, CNN reports. But here’s one example of how state-level partisan bickering is affecting education now: $830 million in education funding earmarked for Texas is stalled at the federal Department of Education level because Texan Democrats and Republicans can’t agree on how to spend it. “Federal aid to education should actually aid education in our local Texas schools, not provide a bailout to the governor for his mismanagement of the state budget,” US Rep. Lloyd Doggett told The Wall Street Journal. Meanwhile, Gov. Rick Perry proposes cutting 100,000 teacher jobs in the Lone Star State.

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