by Christopher Paslay
After reading Dom Giordano’s “Education’s 5 Big Lies” in the Daily News last week, it’s hard for me to believe that Giordano was ever a teacher to begin with. In particular, his belief that class size has no impact on learning is quite puzzling.
Giordano states in his article: This lie says that class size is paramount in determining a child’s ability to learn.
The National Education Association, the teachers’ union, has often floated the notion that 15 students in a class is the highest effective number and having 30 is an impossible situation.
The Rand Corp. did one of the biggest studies of class size, analyzing the effects of California‘s spending $1 billion in the late ’90s to cut class size in elementary schools. They found no link between the smaller classes and improvement in test scores.
The major flaw in Giordano’s reasoning is that isolated standardized test scores are the sole means in which to measure a child’s progress in school. There is a lot more to learning—especially at the elementary level—than reading and math scores.
Learning is also about socialization, citizenship, conflict resolution, organizational skills, critical thinking skills, and all the other academic and behavioral competencies children need to grow into successful adults.
To see if class size has an impact on learning, one needs only to ask two fundamental questions:
1. Does classroom management have an effect on learning? It most certainly does. Any legitimate educator who’s spent time in a classroom will tell you that you can’t teach a class that you can’t control.
2. Does class size have an effect on classroom management? Without a doubt. You can manage 15 students much more effectively than 30. There are less behavioral issues; there is a stronger teacher-to-student ratio; there is less time needed to produce and grade materials, so there is more time to plan for instruction; when it comes to resources, such as computers and money for field trips, you can accommodate 15 much easier than 30; and the list goes on and on. These factors not only impact learning, but also the teacher-student relationship, and the closeness of the classroom environment.
The Rand Corp. study Giordano refers to might show class size has no impact on test scores, but then again, theoretical physics can prove that an elephant can hang from a cliff with his tail tied to a daisy.
Any educator with common sense knows that class size has an effect on learning. Giordano’s claim otherwise is either an attempt at sensationalism or proof he’s lost touch with his former profession.