Monday, November 30, 2015

The Wit and Wisdom of Class Size Arbitrators

Our arbitrator couldn't remember my name or that of my principal, and got them both wrong, but it doesn't matter. It's not like a parking ticket, where you can appeal.

There were not a whole lot of oversized classes by the time my school got to a hearing. One of them was a College Now class. I've been protesting them for the last three semesters, as they are oversized and I think 34 is already too high. Though they take place in our public school building, are taught by UFT teachers, and consist of our students, the arbitrators have ruled over and over that since a college pays the teacher salary class size rules don't apply. I don't care. I will keep protesting them.

In another case, we had a period ten class of 41 students. I'm told this is a remedial class, consisting only of students who'd previously failed the course. In that case, I have to question the wisdom of placing them in a class of 41. How the hell are students who already failed the class supposed to be supported when the teacher's attention is so widely divided? Don't kids who've already proven to have trouble need more attention, not less? This was defended by administration as being outside the normal school day and therefore not subject to contract. However, a recent arbitration says that even these classes are subject to class size regs.

The DOE lawyer argued that the precedent did not apply, and that if it did they wanted an exception. It must be a heckuva job to sit in an office all day and argue kids need larger classes. In any case, the arbitrator decided to grant a "half-class exception," which means it's just fine for 41 kids to sit in the class.

I also grieved a Saturday special education class that had 46 students. Admin has argued, to me, that not all 46 students are there at once. I did not find that argument particularly compelling. After all, if only 45 kids show, or if even 34 show, it's still too much, particularly when you consider that there are 46 IEPs to be considered. I thought there was no way the arbitrator would grant another exception, but alas, that's what I get for thinking. The arbitrator is fine with it, but I'm not, so I filed a UFT special education complaint. I'm pretty sure the state would not look fondly on a special education class of 46.

The last cases I had were of classes taught by two teachers. One had 39 students and the other had 69. An argument could be made that since there were two teachers there could be up to 68 students in the class. I'm told they have an unusually large classroom. Now, if it were me, I'd say OK, why not transfer one of the students from the class of 69 into the class of 39. Of course, it wasn't me, and the arbitrator didn't bother with any remedy at all. Why invoke a simple and obvious solution when you can just ignore the rules and say that's the way things are?

I've read other arbitrators order that oversized classes stay the same but that teachers be relieved from their C6 assignments. While that might be nice for teachers wasting their time on potty patrol, it really doesn't serve the kids well at all. I wonder why, in a system with the largest class sizes in the state, we can't just say follow the damn rule and be done with it.
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