Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Class Size Conundrum

Last year I brought a class size resolution to the UFT Executive Board. Of course they voted it down, because it's overkill. Of course the contract says there are 34 students per high school class, and 50 years ago they gave up something or other to have it enshrined in writing. That ought to be good enough for anyone.

The only issue, as far as I can see, is that the DOE has no respect whatsoever for the contract. There are oversized classes all over the city. UFT leadership seems not to perceive that as a flaw. After all, it says, right there in black and white, that we have limits. So what's the big deal?

Of course, there are exceptions. If you teach PE or music, you could have up to 50. And if you work in a school like mine you might have not five, but ten classes. You see, the geniuses in Albany have decreed that it's OK to give PE every other day. So there you are, with 500 students, and some AP demanding you differentiate instruction even though it's largely impossible for a standard human to even learn the students' names.

That's OK, isn't it? No? Well, it isn't really fair of me to imply that leadership is doing nothing about it. When I complained about it, they pointed out that they had started a committee, with the DOE, where they, you know, talk about stuff. And they made it a point to let me know that my school, which has been in violation of class size rules forever, was one of the schools they talk about.

What exactly they say I don't know. After all, I'm just a lowly chapter leader and member of the Executive Board representing city high schools. Why would they include me in discussions involving my high school? They're talking about it with someone, somewhere, and that should be good enough for me. But it isn't. Last year I placed an article in the Daily News about how some genius arbitrator had decided that relieving teachers of their C6 assignment one day a week was sufficient to compensate for class size issues.

Of course, now that there was a UFT committee sitting around talking about something, somewhere, with someone, everything would be completely different. In fact, for the second half of last year, the "action plan" entailed placing a licensed teacher in each oversized class to help the teacher and students out. This was not perfect, but made a lot of sense to me.

However, last month I went back, and what do you think the learned arbitrator suggested? He suggested that any teacher in our school with an oversized class would be relieved from the C6 assignment one day a week. That's absurd. Oversized classes are very tough to deal with. In fact, 34 is already the highest class size in the state. Going beyond that is unconscionable. We're moving backward rather than forward, and there are no viable consequences for violating the contract.

It's nice that a bunch of people from UFT and DOE are sitting around somewhere drinking coffee. But from the perspective of a chapter leader and class size advocate, it's clear to me that the committee has had no effect whatsoever on class size issues.

It's kind of remarkable that a city that claims to place children first, always, thinks that providing children with less tutoring will somehow make up for their utter disrespect for one thing we know to be effective--reasonable class sizes.
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