Monday, June 08, 2009

A Total Load

In a fascinating op-ed in the Daily News, "distinguished professor" William Ouchi lauds Chancellor Klein for reducing "total student workload" for busy city teachers. Apparently, city teachers can have up to 170 students if they have five classes of 34 kids. Ouchi has clearly done his homework in determining that five times 34 is 170. After that, however, Ouchi ventures onto ground that even I, lacking his apparent mathematical saavy, would not skate upon.

Ouchi says total student load is more important than class size, preposterously implying that the amount of students teachers have in classes does not impact the quality of education they receive. He fails to take into account the amount of personal attention kids get from teachers before they hand in their papers, something I, as a parent, am very interested in.

Ouchi suggests measuring a teacher's total number of students is "an almost entirely unknown measure of school performance," as though teachers have never considered it. Clearly Ouchi's responsibilities as "distinguished professor" preclude his taking one minute to speak to a single classroom teacher (the norm for many brilliant researchers, unfortunately). He also asserts classes are orderly, and schools are safer. Were my ESL students to write such things, I'd demand support, but Ouchi does not hold himself to such exacting standards.

Perhaps most outrageous, we're supposed to accept this as gospel based "a cluster of 42 schools"  in New York City.  We have no indication of the size of those schools, nor whether they received the preferential treatment that typifies the "academies" popping up where neighborhood schools used to be. We don't know how many teachers are deans, coordinators, or programmers two or three periods a day. We certainly don't know why Ouchi opts to make his conclusions based on the cluster, when figures for the entire city, flawed and juked though they may be, are available.

While class sizes are exploding in NYC, it's blatantly preposterous to assert teachers have fewer students by any measure. Perhaps it's nice to be a tenured professor and spout such plainly absurd gobbledygook rather than teach five classes. But the overwhelming majority of real city teachers teach those five classes (and that doesn't count the sixth class, the one the UFT claims is not actually a class).

Ouchi can say whatever he wishes, of course. He can talk about "total student load" and ignore class sizes, which have risen, particularly during the last year, despite Tweed's acceptance of hundreds of millions for reduction. He can ignore the failure and delay of new schools to relieve overcrowding,

Certainly Ouchi can pat himself on the back if he really believes no one has ever before conceived of "total student load. " But I work with real teachers every day, and just about every working teacher is pointedly aware of it. Ouchi can assert averages based on his small hand-picked cluster, but it's fairly simple to deduct precisely Ouchi's research is a total load of.
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