The United States Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, has recently made comments suggesting the increase of class sizes, along with a decrease in the amount of teachers in schools, would be a beneficial move for the field of education.
DeVos’ main claim is that students learn better in a classroom with a larger number of students as opposed to one with a fewer number of students. She made this claim during a testimony before a House subcommittee and, despite evidence being presented to contradict her statement, she stood by her claim. Mind you, she provided no factual evidence to back up her argument and couldn’t actually answer where she was gathering her information from.
I would like to bring to light some facts that disprove her claim that larger class sizes are more effective for student learning.
There has long been a shortage of people willing to become educators and take on the responsibility that comes with being a part of the field. This has been proven to be an issue in the world of education, not a benefit. Less teachers in schools means larger class sizes for the few teachers who are willing to stay in the profession despite the factors that make most leave or not want to enter it in the first place (e.g. low salaries, little to no raises, and too large class sizes).
The evidence that was mentioned to contradict her claim comes from the long-standing research done in the field of education to come up with the Student-Teacher Achievement Ratio (STAR) which states the suggested student to teacher ratio in the United States is 15:1. This has been proven with actual field research and insight from educators and others who have spent apt amount of time in classrooms dealing with students, and the challenges that come with this.
Smaller class sizes may not seem like a huge deal to anyone who has not spent time teaching or even observing a classroom recently. I can, however, vouch for the importance of this practice. My mother is an elementary school teacher in Indiana. I have seen her struggle to connect with and teach students effectively when she has a class of 30 students, a large portion of whom have Individualized Education Plans (IEP) or special accommodations. Conversely, I have seen her form connections and personalize her instruction more efficiently with a class size of around 25.
Even a small change of five students makes all the more difference in a teacher’s ability to instruct and educate effectively. Taking away five students gives more time for educators to cater to the way that different students learn in different ways and work more efficiently with students who may have IEP’s and need extra guidance and help focusing from those helping them learn the material.
DeVos also stated that there are many different ways and environments in which different students learn best, as one of her two nonsensical points backing up her claim for larger class sizes being more efficient than smaller ones. Working with 30+ students who are all separate in the way that they learn best is most definitely not something that teachers anticipate and/or strive for when they enter the field. This is actually one of the main causes of teachers burning out and leaving the field entirely.
Anyone who has ever worked in a classroom setting knows that working with less students is more efficient for the learning of those students, as well as the ability of the educator. Less is more in regards to the amount of students in a class, but not when it comes to providing said students with qualified educators.
America should be striving to lower class sizes by increasing the amount of quality teachers in the education system. A good way to start this would be to improve the salaries of educators at the state level. If you want better quality educators, you need to pay them a better salary. This is just one of many ideas that I hold along with many others in the education field on ways to improve the United States Education System.
The views expressed are those of the writer and not necessarily of The Torch