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Education Lab Blog

Education Lab is a yearlong project to spark meaningful conversations about education solutions in the Pacific Northwest.

Topic: class size

You are viewing the most recent posts on this topic.

December 16, 2014 at 6:01 PM

Gov’s plan would spur court sanctions, says state schools chief

Washington state schools chief Randy Dorn lambasted Gov. Jay Inslee’s proposed education budget Tuesday, saying it falls far short of what the state Supreme Court has ordered lawmakers to do when it comes to how much money they provide to public schools.

In his budget, released Monday, Inslee said he wants to pay for all-day public kindergarten and reduce average class sizes in grades K-3. But he did not set any money aside for reducing the number of students per class  in grades 4-12, which voters approved in the November election. And while Inslee suggests reinstating cost-of-living raises for teachers, Dorn says that’s not enough.

To meet the court’s requirements, Dorn said, lawmakers must fund a basic education for all students, without school districts having to contribute to those costs through local property tax levies.

“This issue is not complicated,” Dorn wrote. “Over and over again our courts have ruled that relying on levies to fund a major portion of our education system is unconstitutional.”

Dorn said Inslee’s proposal, if adopted, will lead the Supreme Court to sanction lawmakers.

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Comments | Topics: class size, Education budget, Initiative 1351

October 29, 2014 at 7:00 AM

Does class size matter? Research reveals surprises

Mark Burbank's astronomy class at Mountlake Terrace High School (shown here Thursday, Oct. 23, 2014) has close to 40 kids enrolled, which is an example of the kind of overcrowded classroom that I-1351 on the November ballot would address, but at a cost of billions. Photo by Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times.

Mark Burbank’s astronomy class at Mountlake Terrace High School has close to 40 kids enrolled, which is an example of the kind of overcrowded classroom that I-1351 on the November ballot would address, but at a cost of billions. Photo by Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times.

Few education reforms make as much sense on a gut level as giving teachers fewer students to teach.

The idea is popular with parents and politicians alike — at least 40 states have carried out some kind of class-size reduction in the past 15 years — and the Legislature in Washington has pledged to reduce average class sizes in kindergarten through third grade to 17 students by the fall of 2017.

Initiative 1351 on the Nov. 4 ballot would go even further, lowering average class sizes to 25 for grades four through 12 in Washington’s schools (with smaller sizes for schools where the majority of students come from low-income families).

According to the latest federal data based on teacher surveys, the average class size is 24 in the state’s elementary schools and 30 in secondary schools.

But despite more than four decades of research in the U.S. and abroad, the effects of this simple idea about how to raise student achievement have been hard to isolate and measure, leading to academic squabbles over its value.

Read full story here.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: class size

August 29, 2014 at 5:00 AM

How to improve schools? Some students say: Lower class size

Over six days in the past few weeks, 13 high school students, about to enter 12th grade, tackled a tough question: Is education equitable in Seattle, and if it’s not, why?

The students are all part of the prestigious Rainier Scholars program, selected in part because most hope to be the first in their families to attend college. From the time they’re in middle school, the program offers participants a big dose of academic enrichment, along with leadership training and social-emotional support.

Rainier Scholars Cohort VII

Students in Cohort VII in the Rainier Scholars program, who spent a half-dozen days this summer researching educational equity in Seattle. Photos courtesy of Rainier Scholars.

When it came time to present their findings,  the students clicked through Power Points full of statistics — everything from data showing that Ballard High’s PTA often raises more in one year than Franklin High does in 10, to maps showing how far students from low-income neighborhoods have to travel if they want to attend many of the city’s best-performing schools.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: class size, Rainier Scholars

November 26, 2013 at 3:09 PM

Guest: Strong teacher or not, class size still matters

Gary Plano

Gary Plano

The simulated study on the effect strong teachers can have on students, released last week by the Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research, makes an excellent point about the value of excellent educators. Certainly we all agree that great teachers make great schools.

What the simulation does not do is stack up against the volumes of research showing conclusively that smaller class sizes have a dramatic impact on student performance. Research on class size has been conducted in states across the country, and from California to Wisconsin the results are the same — smaller classes mean higher student achievement.

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Comments | More in Guest opinion | Topics: class size, Gary Plano, Mercer Island

November 20, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Which is better: Smaller class sizes for all or more students for strong teachers?

A new article in The Atlantic raises an ongoing question about class sizes: Is it better to put a lot of students in the classroom of an excellent teacher, or lower class sizes for all teachers?

That debate has been going on for some time, and, despite the conclusion of a new report described in The Atlantic, probably will continue.

The report, based on a simulation of data from North Carolina, says that excellent teachers are a better investment than small class sizes.

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Comments | More in News, Your voices | Topics: CALDER, class size, Class Size Counts