First, here's Gates:
Bill Gates closed the National Governors Association's 2011 winter meeting last week by urging the governors to consider increasing the class sizes of the best teachers.And here's the reaction from a letter writer:
Under the Microsoft founder's model, a school's most effective teachers would be given an additional four or five students. Less effective teachers could then work with smaller classes and receive professional development.
A 2008 study supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation determined that 83 percent of teachers would support increasing their class sizes for additional compensation. (The foundation provides grant support to Editorial Projects in Education, which publishes Education Week.) In 2009, a Goldwater Institute report argued for tying teacher effectiveness to a higher pupil-teacher ratio and a higher salary.
The endorsement by Mr. Gates now could push the proposal further into the mainstream, given the level of support shown at the NGA meeting.
Gates to NGA: Tie Class Sizes to Teachers' Skills
Published Online: March 8, 2011
Published in Print: March 9, 2011, as Gates to NGA: Tie Class Sizes to Teachers' Skill
What makes a teacher of young learners effective is his or her ability to work with individuals in ways that are appropriate to their needs. During whole-group lessons, such teachers move around their classrooms, spotting those who are having difficulty and taking the time to give a little help and encouragement. Later, when planning future lessons, they include modifications for the range of abilities in their classrooms and figure out ways to have most students working on their own or with a partner, so they can meet with small groups.
It is only the least-competent teachers who stand in front of their classrooms and give the same instruction to all, blind to the boredom of those who already know the material, the confusion of those who aren’t ready for it, and the tuned-out state of the few who don’t care.
Although the notion of getting extra pay for taking on more students might have seemed attractive to most of the teachers responding to a survey funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2008, the situation at that time was only hypothetical.
Today thousands of teachers all over the country have classes of 30 and up. I wager that neither Bill Gates nor the governors who agree with him could keep order in such classrooms, much less teach anybody anything.
[Many] to most of the top-performing urban charter schools of which I'm aware buck the otherwise orthodox belief in heterogeneous classroom grouping and solve this problem by homogeneously grouping classes.With homogeneous grouping, the teacher is always teaching to the level of the entire class because the entire class is on the same level.
Teach Like a Champion
Also: whole-group instruction does not mean whole-group lecture. Whole-group instruction means "Call and Response," "Pepper," "Cold Call," "Wait Time," "Everybody Writes," etc. In the well-taught homogeneously grouped classes Lemov describes, the situation is pretty close to 100% of students learning from the teacher 100% of the time because 100% of students are directly engaged with the teacher for 100% of the class. That's the goal.
How much time are students directly engaged with the teacher in a heterogeneous class?
Say class time is 50 minutes and you've got 20 kids.
- 12 minutes for the mini lesson
- 2 or 3 minutes for transition-time (sit on the floor to observe mini-lesson; re-group for partner-work; sit on floor again for mini-lesson; etc.)
- 35 minutes for individual time with teacher
If the mini-lesson is not pitched to the child's level, then 3 minutes max.
One of these days I'll have to write up my notes from the 5th grade writing workshop I observed. I think it's fair to say that the two boys I was sitting closest to learned nothing at all for the entire class period. Learned nothing and practiced nothing.
I don't know whether the other kids were engaged in productive partner work.