kitchen table math, the sequel: the last word

Monday, July 20, 2009

the last word

Fun Fact Friday! - Student/Teacher Ratio from Education Gadfly on Vimeo.


Cranberry said...

Both Japan and South Korea are well known for their "cram school" cultures. I doubt that these figures took the time spent in school, and in after-school, into account. Both countries cap the pre-college education with a difficult exam which sorts out those who will attend college from those who will not.

I also do not worship small class size. Use of such oversimplified and misleading statistics don't help. In general, I like Education Gadfly, but this video is misleading.

(in our district, they divide the number of students by the number of teachers, including special ed teachers and "curriculum leaders", who may not spend time with students. Student/Teacher Ratio doesn't necessarily equal small class size.)

Catherine Johnson said...

you're right!

I like the video anyway -- entirely because it' so simple.

I've now seen the other side of class size. Class size in my district is around 21 students (this is actual class size), and we are paying out of pocket to send C. to Hogwarts, where class size is 28.

Small classes with a zillion different ability levels and group work can't hold a candle to large homogeneously grouped classes & whole-group instruction.

Plus - and this is something I've seen no one point out - whole group instruction is much jollier.

Catherine Johnson said...

The thing about large classes with whole group instruction is that you can accelerate the pace, and a brisk pace is a feature of effective instruction. (I think Michael Pressley may have written about this -- ? I've also got a study of effective teachers that found the same thing. Have yet to post it.)

Kids need a class to move at a brisk clip in order to stay focused.

AND: people are happier when they're focused and on track.

I know I posted a Comment in another thread about the public school our new board member attended on Staten Island just after WWII. The school had too many students to handle, so they created a combined class of 54 students (two grades combined into one) that was accelerated so they could move kids in and out of the school faster.

She said it was the best class in her entire K-12 education. 54 kids. She learned so much in that class that it carried her through high school.

That's how I see whole-group, accelerated instruction at its best: it has an intensity that is exciting and effective.

I imagine a lot of people would call that class a form of "cram school" -- but if so, cram school is a good thing.

Catherine Johnson said...

I should add that I don't know enough about differentiation to make such sweeping statements.

Nevertheless, I have now observed a Writers Workshop class (not differentiated, but lots of partner activities) and I've read quite a lot about what actually goes on inside classrooms with differentiated instruction.

So far, I don't see how it can possibly move as quickly as whole group instruction with homogeneous grouping - and nor do I see how it can be as jolly.

Jolly is good.

rocky said...

Yes, a different culture, where the students are ready to listen as soon as the teacher comes into the room. The teacher does not need to spend five to ten minutes out of every hour, telling children to behave.

Misbehaving students are:

Given detention, where they really have to spend time during lunch or after school, and the school won't run a special school bus to take the student home.

Swatted on the open hand or butt with the strap or a cane ("six of the best" being the maximum).

In trouble at home when the parents find out, because the parents always back up the teachers.

And well-behaved students who just don't understand the material are moved to a class where the basic things are re-taught at a slower pace.

But these practices are either illegal or contested by lawyers in the US, and parental support is just wishful thinking.

Niels Henrik Abel said...

I was going to point out the cultural gaps, too: A major reason why Japan and South Korea can accomplish much more with larger class sizes is due in part to the heavy cultural emphasis on education. Respect for the teacher and his authority make it a much more conducive environment in which kids can learn.

A generation or two ago we in the U.S. had a similar respect for the teacher's authority and discipline. If you got into trouble at school, you knew that you would get it again when you got home. Not anymore. How many teachers are afraid to lay hands on a kid, much less physically restrain him if he gets out of control?

Such a situation is unthinkable in a Japanese or Korean classroom. The teacher does what is necessary to maintain classroom discipline, and he has the full support of the parents.

Catherine Johnson said...

But these practices are either illegal or contested by lawyers in the US, and parental support is just wishful thinking.

This is the big issue.

I need to learn more about it - but I don't think it's about law. (I may be wrong - so pls correct me!)

The issue seems to be school ideology.

I've now communicated with at least 5 different teachers who have worked many years in urban and/& suburban schools; all tell me that school administrations (frequently central administration) refuse to remove even severely disruptive & in some cases violent kids from the classroom.

One teacher said this policy was the result of lack of money and an ideology of "radical inclusion."

A Brooklyn principal told me, just this year, that the refusal to remove severely disruptive kids from the classroom is pure political correctness. The vast majority of kids in urban schools, she said, and I've heard this many times, are good kids who are there to learn. But one completely unmanageable student in a classroom can run the show.

Another teacher I met this year, a sub in the Bronx, told me that NYC principals are now required by central administration to report the number of violent incidents they have in their schools.

The principal in her school responded to this directive by telling teachers not to report ANYTHING.

She's a woman & a substitute teacher; she has been ordered not to report any disruptive behavior at all.

John Gatto has a chapter about this in his new book, I think. I'll get passages posted.

Catherine Johnson said...

One of these teachers said that in suburbs it's the same, although that's not the case here. New teachers probably don't have good classroom management skills, so the kids get out of line. (This is what I mean when I say that parents can't maintain classroom discipline from afar. Kids in packs are like dogs in packs!)

But kids with real behavior problems get taken out of the classroom.

Back to my source: she had seen suburban schools insist that **very** challenged autistic children not be removed from the classroom when they tantrumed.

Now, I'm the world's expert on very challenged autistic children, and the disturbance they are capable of creating is equaled by none. Ed and I have **always** told every teacher & administrator of every school our kids attended to make sure they weren't ruining other kids' ability to pay attention and learn.

Of course, the problem there was that our kids have always been in self-contained classrooms - where they have on occasion driven the kids in the self-contained classroom nuts (and vice versa, at times).

I have a funny story about that.

One of the boys in Jimmy's class a few years ago, who had mental retardation, was so bugged by Jimmy's various chantings, that he actually **laid a plan** to wait until Jimmy was alone in the bathroom endlessly washing his hands AND THEN PUNCH HIM IN THE NOSE.

Which he did!

His teacher was horrified, and called me at once to fill me in and tell me how sorry she was.

I said, Forget it! (I hope I didn't say, "I feel like punching him in the nose myself sometimes.")

I was fantastically impressed that a boy with mental retardation had managed to hatch a successful plot against my chanting son.

I'll finish this comment by saying that everyone in my district has been clear about respecting students' rights & need for peace and quiet. They've managed to figure out a quiet place Jimmy (& Andrew, I assume) could be taken if he was tantruming.

Also: we've had fantastic teachers & psychologists here. They've managed to bring down the level of tantruming enormously.

Catherine Johnson said...

A generation or two ago we in the U.S. had a similar respect for the teacher's authority and discipline. If you got into trouble at school, you knew that you would get it again when you got home.

You really don't need the threat of what dad will do at home to maintain discipline in the classroom.

In fact, I'm positive that good teachers in the 50s & 60s did **not** depend on that threat!

We do have a major problem, I think (I'd like to hear from teachers on this) with prohibitions against touching students.

I don't believe in corporal punishment, but I think a teacher should be able to touch a student to calm him down, send a message, etc.

Catherine Johnson said...

You guys MUST read the KIPP book.

They've got order in the classroom!

There's one passage, which I intend to post at some point, where people say the school's atmosphere reminds them of old-fashioned Catholic schools (not the kind with the nuns and the rulers!)

Catherine Johnson said...

BELABORING THE POINT: (!) Hogwarts is the demonstration project.

To my eyes, those kids are fantastically well behaved.

Now, you could say that the school doesn't have to follow the dictates of "central administration," which is true; you could also say that the kids all come from homes with "authoritative" parents who support the school, which is true.

Doesn't matter.

That is a school filled with rowdy teenage boys who are many miles away from mom & dad. When I told the principal I think of the school as "Hogwarts," he looked at me blankly, then said, "More like Animal House." I'm pretty sure the admissions director called it, "Organized chaos."

Nevetheless, when I've gone to school plays, I see zillions of adolescent boys, of all different ethnic groups, with virtually no parents or adults around -- and they are all behaving themselves like gentlemen. It is extraordinary.

The incredible thing is: I think some of those boys don't even go to the school, but are there with girlfriends who are acting in the play. And they're STILL behaving themselves!

That comes from **school culture.**
The Hogwarts teachers & administrators are on those kids every second. If a boy doesn't have his top shirt button buttoned, that's a point towards JUG ("Justice Under God," aka detention). If he doesn't hold the door open for the person behind him, that's a point. If he fails to make eye contact with a grownup and say, "Hello Mr. or Mrs. so-and-so," that's another point.

And all of this is done in a spirit of great fun and adventure.

The place is high joy/high discipline.

That's the secret. These boys are having the time of their lives WHILE they are being groomed and shaped into "Men for others," which is the Jesuit motto.

No parent can do from afar what a good school culture does on site!

Anonymous said...

One of the factors affecting discipline is, believe it or not, AYP. An out of school suspension is counted as an absence. Schools teetering on the edge of AYP for attendance measures are reluctant to remove (by suspension) kids that need to be removed.

There is no measure for the hit you take on learning by keeping the disruptors in class so that is where they're placed (back in class).