Why Is Class Size Worth The Risk of Violating The Injunction?

Since so much is being made of the class size issue in this bargain, I thought it would be good for teachers to have an opportunity to post examples to illustrate for the community how class size numbers have been distorted or misrepresented by the District, or how a change in class size can change how we do our jobs. 

Comments for this post should only be related to giving personal examples from teachers and other KEA members for the benefit of illustrating why this is important.  Any comments that are off topic will not be posted!!!

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52 Responses to “Why Is Class Size Worth The Risk of Violating The Injunction?”

  1. Tom Larsen, KW Says:

    Here’s a quick example of how class size impacts me as a social studies teacher in the 9th grade.

    One of the major things we do at Kentwood is a 9th grade research paper. The research is done in history class, the writing is done in the English class, and then the history teachers grade the papers for content, use of evidence, paragraph format, etc. It is a major project that takes up the majority of 6 weeks of school, and Kentwood requires that it is part of the Senior Portfolio all students must complete for graduation. All students of all ability levels complete the project. Special Education and English Language Learner teachers also assist students on the project. It is truly a collaborative effort that Kentwood is very proud of. We believe that the end result is that students learn to read and write better and to think more critically.

    Some students come to us with a good background in research skills, good reading and writing skills, etc. Others are not so adept, and need huge amounts of one-on-one help.

    Now for some math, which most history teachers fear! 🙂

    Exclude the huge amount of time during class, before school, and after school that we spend with kids as they research and write the paper, and focus for a moment only on the assessment portion, which is a huge area of emphasis in the KSD. In a class of honors students, it takes approximately 20 minutes per essay to fully read the paper, make corrections, analyze arguments, and assign a grade based upon the rubric. Non-honors papers take about 15 minutes, because the requirements are slightly less. Average that to about 17 minutes per essay.

    If you teach 5 sections of history that blend both honors and non-honors students together, and there are 30 students in each class, that comes out to 5 x 30 x 17 = 2550 minutes, or about 42.5 hours. If I’m in meetings before and after school, and use my plan time to plan lessons, meet with my Small Learning Community and Professional Community teams, answer parent emails, etc., that means that those 42.5 hours are spent at home grading papers, in addition to the grading of daily work that is constantly coming in. If you increase my average class size to 35 students, that total goes up to 2975 minutes or 49.5 hours.

    In the 2007-8 school year, my average class size was about 35. I collected papers at the beginning of April, just prior to Spring Break. I finished grading the last paper the day after school ended (it was the first day at school I had with no meetings to attend.) I may be a slow reader, but I am not lazy. I read until I coudn’t stand it anymore. I gave up huge amounts of my time that were not compensated. The difference between 30 kids and 35 kids in a classroom is huge.

    When class sizes get smaller, teachers have more time to plan, more time to assess, more time to meet with students individually, and more time to have a life when the school day ends.

  2. Elementary Says:

    My class had 27 students in it. What challenges did I face? I had a student who had emotional issues and special accommodations because of it. I had to be sure my own presence was consistent (aka I had to be sure I wasn’t absent) so he could feel safe. Also, I had 9 ELL students, 4 of which spoke very little English. We resorted to many hand gestures to communicate. On top of that, I had 3 students who were close to being gifted, and needed academic challenge. I also had 3 with ADD and ADHD. Four students out of this group had IEPs, which means I had extra meetings on top of my other meetings (i.e. staff meetings, grade level meetings, Learning Team meetings, workshops, parent one on one meetings, etc.). Sometimes IEP meetings can only be scheduled way after my contracted day ends. I don’t live in Kent, so I would have to work in my classroom until the meeting would start about 2 hours after the students leave for the day. These IEP meetings would often last betwen 90-120 minutes each. My other students were either very low academically but did not qualify for SPED, or they were students who came from dysfunctional homes and needed extra TLC and help with social issues. On top of all that, I still have to make lesson plans for each subject I teach (up to 6 or more) and within each subject, I have to make plans for small group learning. I estimate that my lessons take an average of 15+ hours per week to plan (including: gathering materials, researching, copying, etc.). Then, I can look forward to grading papers. Grading alone takes another 15 hours per week. All this work of planning, grading, meetings takes place outside of my teaching day!! Oh, by the way, I make numerous calls to parents on my own break time, lunch time, before and after school. Our principals also make us do duties, such as playground, lunch duty, etc. Duties alone, take us away from our jobs as teachers. The District would be smart to hire more classified personnel to do duties. My time as a teacher is better spent getting ready for students!!

  3. Anton Kramer Says:

    According to the district’s website I had really small classes last year… The KSD website shows a total of 134 students in first semester and 130 in second semester. Why so low? I can only suppose it is because the district didn’t count all the students that transfered/dropped in the course of the semester.
    As many of us know it’s pretty difficult to deal with students who transfer in and out mid-term… just like apartment managers who prefer to rent an apartment on a year lease rather than have to rent the same apartment to 12 different renters. In actuality (I pulled out my rosters from last year) I served 147 and 137 students each semester respectively. If every teacher’s count from the district is off by up to 13 students then that is some serious under-reporting the district is doing… anyone else have rosters they can check against the district numbers?

  4. Anton Kramer, KR Says:

    Forgot to put my school like Tom did

  5. FWTeacher Says:

    The numbers on the district website were wrong as well. The district listed my sixth-grade class at 25, and my roster from last year had 27 students.

    We, too, have a research paper that is a requirement from the state. It is called the Classroom Based Assessment (CBA). In order for my students to even begin to approach standard on this project, it took about 6 weeks of both Social Studies and Writing time, about 2 hours, each day. For many of the students, the CBA was the first time they had ever been asked to write a persuasive essay/research project. It was very difficult for everyone, including the students that qualified for the honors classes for seventh-grade. It was nearly impossible for my Special Ed students and ELL students. Even with a class of 27, there simply was not enough of me to be able to help everyone. When it came time to grade the CBA’s, they took about 10 minutes each, or about 4.5 hours. Again, the entire grading process was done outside of my contracted work day.

    Class size also effects report cards. Each Standards Based Report Card not only requires mulitple number grades for each subject, but a narrative on how each student is meeting (or not meeting) standard. One report card for one student takes about an hour, sometimes a little more. My average time for completing report cards is 30 hours. We do get a floating report card day, but the majority of the time is spent at home, uncompensated.

    One year, I had 33 students in my class. Elementary classrooms are simply not designed to hold 34 people. We were always tripping over the back of someone’s chair, foot, etc. There wasn’t enough equipment in the Science kits, which are designed for a class of no more than 32. We didn’t have enough math books for the first two weeks of school. Of that 33, 4 had just missed the cut-off for gifted, 3 were Special Ed, 1 was ELL, 2 were ADHD, and several others just needed some extra TLC. I know there were kids in my class that year that simply didn’t get enough teacher time.

    One of the biggest predictors of student success is a feeling that “my teacher likes me”. Smaller class sizes let teachers get to really know each student.

  6. Anne Fontaine, CV Says:

    I teach in a Title 1 school. Over half of our students qualify for free and reduced lunch, we have a large ELL population, and our Special Education population is large as well. For the past three years I have had an autistic child in my classroom for all of the day or the majority of the day, in addition to other IEP students, ELL students, and at least one student who spoke no English at all on arrival in my room. Several years ago, I started the school year with 16 students. During the month of September, I was able to assess each child’s level and needs, work individually with students, provide the needed support to my high-risk and below grade level students (at least half of the class), and build a supportive classroom community. I felt confident these students could make great progress with all the attention I could give them. Then came the October 1st count, on which the district bases teacher allocation. Our first grade classes were deemed too small; we lost a teacher at first grade, reallocating those students to the two remaining teachers. My class size went overnight from 16 to 25. I spent the next month reteaching classroom routines to the new students and rebuilding the classroom community, which had changed completely with the addition of new students with new needs, behavior issues, learning problems, etc. With 25 students, I spent more time assessing and less time teaching; more time record-keeping and less time designing interventions; more time managing behavior and less time meeting individual needs. I will always remember that first month as a time of hope: that I could really have an impact, that my students could make good progress in spite of their difficulties, that I would truly leave no child behind…
    I am an experienced teacher with 20 years of special education background as well as regular classroom experience; I work extra hours every day to provide the best learning experiences for my students; my students do make progress each year; but there is no question that class size matters!
    Kent has become increasingly diverse; our students come to us with a huge variety of backgrounds, family configurations, basic experiences, readiness skills, attitudes, and learning challenges. In order to provide ALL students with an opportunity to learn, we must LIMIT CLASS SIZES, not allow them to become larger each year.

  7. Anton Kramer, KR Says:

    See what other teachers are saying:

  8. theresa Says:

    The bitterness of poor quality is remembered long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten. A lesson meant for the business world but one that really applies to the KSD in our fight for class size.

    Class size matters. In working with students at the high school level, our curriculum is demanding for both teacher and student. We build a relationship with our students to help them learn. When two teachers were involuntarily transfered from my high school last year, our class sizes ballooned. Suddenly I went from teaching two subjects to three. I had classes of 30,38, 35, 30 and 34. My workload increased tremendously.
    I felt really bad when I realized that I had students I could not connect with some who eventually dropped out of school. With my caseload at 167 students, and three preps, I could not give individualized attention to students with chronic absences, who were struggling learners, or who just needed someone to talk with. I felt very guilty about this.
    As a high school teacher, we have to accept that students have the right to fail. Unfortunately, that is a choice that some students do make. But when one of my students makes that choice, it is not because they haven’t received phone calls from me, offers of assistance, one-on-one conversations, encouragement, etc. So when they make that choice, I know that I have done everything I can do to help that student. But that semester, my failure rate increased and I lost kids who dropped out of school. And I feel guilty about it. I know that they deserved the same chances I give all students. I didn’t mean to overlook them. I was just so busy designing lessons, developing materials (my course doesn’t have a book), grading papers, and trying to maintain a high instructional level in my classroom that I didn’t get to it.
    This semester my numbers were astronomical. The day we took our vote, my class numbers equaled 177- not including the 22 kids in my advisory class. Now is the time to stand up.
    Our job is to educate but it is also to make a difference, to inspire, to encourage, and to cheer on students. We need to have reasonable class sizes in order to be effective. Our workload must be reasonable.

  9. frustrated teacher Says:

    Ever since I began working in Kent (8 years ago) I have had classes with more students than seats. Students would have to sit at my desk or at the counter isolating them from their peers. Classes this large are hard to keep focused and manage not to mention there are mixed levels of learners (special ed, school adjustment, and ELL). I do not have the space or the materials for them to work successfully. I could go on and on about extra work for me and not enough time to spend one on one with them, but you get the point. CLASS SIZE ABSOLUTELY MATTERS!

  10. David Robinson KR (KL last year) Says:

    Striking against a court order will do nothing except lose what little community support we already have. Parents and other members of the community respect teachers and know they need better circumstances.

    Large class sizes make school tough. People know that. I had over 150 kids last year at one time. I averaged between 135 and 145 throughout. I care about this issue a ton.

    But when a judge says a strike is illegal, it is poor leadership by the KEA to insist we break the law. What kind of example is that? It tells students that you should go against authority when you think it doesn’t suit you. It tells the community we will put our desires above the people who pay us to work for them.

    If the KEA believes that the injunction is unjust, unfair, or inappropriate, then they should appeal the ruling, plain and simple, so the State Supreme Court can have the final say. But they shouldn’t put our reputations on the line before they take that step.

    I think that teachers have very legitimate gripes, but taking the law into our own hands is not the right way to solve the problem.

    • kenteducationassociation Says:

      KEA insists nothing. KEA will take whatever actions the members vote on. KEA’s elected leaders, on the advice of legal counsel and WEA strike coordinators, may make a proposal to the members about what action to take. While an appeal sounds like a good idea at first, the fact is that WEA legal says that the time it takes and the costs involved make an appeal really useless. The District would have no pressure to bargain in the interim. If we chose this route, we would work without a contract. This would mean that you would be giving up the entire Effective Ed payments, your health insurance would see no additional District contributions (meaning more out-of-pocket expenses for your), and a bunch of other issues. By the time an appeal got to the State Supreme Court, it would be time to negotiate next year’s contract.

      I suggest you do a little research on the Issaquah and Marysville strikes to see what happened at the Bargaining Table when an injunction was filed and teachers in those Districts chose whether or not to defy. Draw your own conclusions.

      • David Says:

        KEA,

        In your closing remarks, you suggested I do “a little research” to see whether or not defiance of a court order can lead to a successful strike. But I never said we couldn’t get what we want by breaking the law. I said, “It tells students that you should go against authority when you think it doesn’t suit you.”

        I’m ready to concede that violation of the court order might be a viable pragmatic solution; but my argument wasn’t pragmatic in nature, it was an argument from principle: it is breaking the law, and it sends the wrong message to students and the community.

      • kenteducationassociation Says:

        So we both are people of principle, but our principles differ. That seems an appropriate lesson for kids, too, doesn’t it?

      • FortheKids Says:

        Yes, it’s a good lesson for kids. But breaking the law is not. I do not want my child or students to think it’s ok to defy a ruling just because it’s unfair. We should keep fighting for smaller classes, but we need to do it on the right side of the law.

      • kenteducationassociation Says:

        There’s a difference between unfair and unjust. Many KEA members believe that the ruling is unjust– that it goes against basic priciples of bargaining and the rights of union members to organize. Some may argue that the judge’s hands were tied, while others may point to the law and say that it is purposefully written to end strikes and get workers back to the job. Still others may argue that the true injustice is in the hands of the District, whom they believe has not bargained in good faith, but instead has simply tried to bully or manipulate or stall to get their way.

        The real question, I believe, is what is morally and ethically acceptable to teachers? Can we allow conditions that it seems all agree do harm to our students to continue? How far are we willing to go to stand up for what we believe is right? What consequences are we willing to accept? Doing what is ethical means defending what we believe to be morally right, even if it may have negative consequences for us. Depending on your personal morals, you may believe that continuing to strike a few more days is more of an injustice than large class sizes and less time for students. We respect your right to advocate for your moral pricipals, and we hope you would respect our right to do the same.

        I found this article informative: http://www.scu.edu/ethics/practicing/decision/whatisethics.html

        In the end, each member of KEA will struggle with both sides of the issue their own way, and vote with their conscience. The vote will decide what the organization does, and we hope that the members of the organization will support the majority decision.

      • FortheKids Says:

        Unjust or unfair, I respect your right to advocate But the law is the law. I want my child and students to show respect to the ruling, and to be shown the right way to deal with this situation. Let’s lead by example, and keep fighting, but within the law.

  11. Very Frustrated Says:

    As a music teacher, my day is a little different from most teachers. I see almost every single class in the school and work with almost every single kid. It’s a challenge to get to know all of them, especially since we hit 600 kids this year but it’s a blast to work with them and watch them grow over the years.
    In music, the best way to teach kids is through play, movement, playing instruments and singing. Over the last year or two, classes have been getting bigger and bigger. In regards to play, this means I have less time to let each child have a turn at the game and we end up having to take more and more time so each child has the experience I want them to have whether it’s singing for the class, taking turns, or just getting up and allowing themselves to be goofy. Movement has also become more difficult. 24 kids fit very well into my room with enough space that the kids can move and dance without danger to themselves or the equipment. When we started hitting some of the higher numbers like 27, 28 and such it started to become a worry that with so many bodies running around and swinging around, something or someone was going to get hurt. For playing instruments, I find that I run out or don’t have enough to share between two kids so they have to share between three kids. It means students don’t get the chance to experience or we have to do it so many times so everyone gets a turn that it gets boring for them and the quality goes down, even if it’s a song they love. And while group singing isn’t affected too much, the chance to hear individual students or small groups becomes VERY time consuming which means individualizing instruction becomes difficult (and yes, with nearly 600 kids I do try to individualize instruction). Kids get nervous singing by themselves in a large group. Also, with so many kids in the class and only 30 minutes, it’s hard to seek out the kids who are having a hard time or not buying in and see how I can bring them in whether it’s through a special job, or different activity or song. I usually end up having just barely enough time to skim the top and very little time to dig down deep into the group. And if I’m having these issues, I can’t imagine what the classroom teachers are dealing with as they face the same issues of individualizing instruction for multiple subjects and levels. (Music tends to be an equalizer so issues of language or reading or special education is usually minimized.)

  12. IP teacher Says:

    My case load was not listed on the KSD website.

    Last year my TOSA told me I would need to start speaking to my principal when my caseload reached 37. The caseload at my school was 35 for a majority of the school year.

  13. kteach Says:

    I was new to Kent schools last year, and I was horrified when I received my rosters for first semester: 27, 32, 33, 34, 29. In my previous school district (one that had an excellent reputation), those kinds of numbers would have been absolutely unacceptable. Our class sizes generally hovered around 25, and a class of over 30 was unheard of, as it was generally accepted that students would be negatively affected by class sizes that large.

    In addition to it being a nightmare to manage 34 students in a class (and try finding space for them in a small classroom), it’s difficult to come up with the energy to:
    -develop engaging lesson plans every day (which requires research,
    creation of visual aids, and planning 1-2 hours of public speaking),
    -keep in touch with parents,
    -keep my room organized,
    -AND grade daily work and papers from that many students.
    My students end up with an exhausted teacher who cannot possibly meet with each of them in the span of a class period. There are so many things that I would like to be able to do in my classroom that I simply can’t with my class sizes, such as: hold writing conferences, help students develop individual goals and help them achieve those goals, read drafts of their writing and give constructive feedback before asking them to write final copies, etc.

    We need caps on our class sizes. We need time to be the best teachers we can possibly be for EACH of our students.

  14. Connie / JC Says:

    As a special education teacher in the elementary integrated program (or resource room) I work with students in reading, writing, math, social/emotional areas and behavior. Next year I will be serving students in kindergarten through 6th grade. I need to be familiar with curriculum and grade level expectations for all subjects in each of those 7 grades. To meet my student’s individual needs as required under state and federal law, I also need to be familiar with a wide range of instructional materials to meet each student where they are and help them grow in each area for which they qualify for special education. On top of that I work with each of their general education teachers to help them adapt materials and content in other areas. For example, a teacher and I might work together to modify a 6th grade social studies project for a student who reads and writes at 3rd grade level. Some students also need programs for behavior and/or social skills. In addition to planning appropriate instruction to help students learn the skills they need, this often involves the general education teacher, playground supervisors, the PE teacher, the music teacher, and other people in our school who need to support the student in making progress. Like most teachers, special education teachers need to stay in contact with parents. Sometimes when children are struggling, daily communication is critical, especially when the issues are behavior or emotional. During a school I go from helping a first grader learn the sounds of the letters to teaching a sixth grader to multiply fractions to helping another children learn a better way to handle anger.
    And, of course, special education requires IEPs (Individualized Education Plans). Blank IEPs in Kent are 14 pages. Printed out they grow longer and longer as a child’s needs become more complicated- sometimes an IEP can reach 30 or more pages. In some cases, children require FBAs (functional behavioral analysis) and/or BIPs (behavior intervention plans), which add even more pages. IEPs take a minimum of one and a half hours to write for a short one. My longest one this last year took 5 hours to write and I ended up re-writing that one two times. IEPs also require IEP team conferences. That means planning a meeting for everyone who works with the child, a district representative and the parents. This is obviously an important meeting, but it can take significant time just to get an IEP meeting planned. Then there’s the IEP Meeting itself. I can get through a short IEP in 30 to 45 minutes, but have had conferences that last as much as three hours. This happens when a child has many or complicated needs. So take an average of 2 hours to write plus one and a half hours to set up and hold a meeting and multiply that by the 33 students on my caseload for this coming year. IEPs are a huge job.
    The IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) requires that progress on IEP goals is reported to parents each time general education students get report cards. Our district requires monthly data is kept and entered into the progress reports as part that process. Special education teachers are also required to attend weekly Guidance Team meetings and Evaluation meetings for students being evaluated for special education services or for students whose needs are being re-evaluated by the school psychologist.
    Clearly this is a big job; each additional student multiples the workload. Sometimes the district provides para-educators to help. I cannot tell you how much I value the team I work with, but the law requires that the certificated special education teacher design, monitor and evaluate instruction. It also requires that I write the IEPs. I usually work a couple hours every evening. I work several hours every weekend and sometimes all weekend. I grade papers when I’m riding in the car, waiting in a doctor’s office, or any other time I have a few minutes to pass.
    I love my students and I love what I do. I know of nothing more magical than seeing a child who has been struggling realize that they have learned something. I want to provide a quality education to my students, but there are only so many minutes in a day. Special education caseload is a very important issue.

    • IP Advocate Says:

      Connie/JC:
      Here, here!! I strongly agree with your entry regarding concerns around class size (caseload) and workload of IP (resource room) teachers in the Kent School District. Without a reasonable student cap, KSD continues to perpetuate the risk of compromising the quality of services provided to these deserving students and negatively impacts student ablility to do well in school and in life! This IS a very important issue!

  15. Bawbert Says:

    Two years ago, I had 37 students for fifth grade math. I had 55 minutes to teach a 70 minute lesson. Since 7 of the kids were from a split class, I had no opportunity to follow up with them and answer their questions. Their teacher was focusing on the 6th grade portion of the math curriculum and did his best. Even with only 30, it was impossible to get to everyone that needed the help. I had 4 ELL kids, as well as 5 Sped kids in my class. How do we keep kids from falling through when there just isn’t enough time to get to them all??

    In regard to the district numbers, I was listed at 28, but had 30 for most of the year. two withdrew in the two weeks before school was out…

  16. Tuvok Says:

    Last year I had two classes that had over 36 students. We had to play musical chairs for the first month until the size was fixed. Each day we hoped someone was absent so there would be enough room for students to sit.

    About 5 years ago I never did get enough desks and found a small table in the hall. I had 3 students sitting at the table for the entire year. On test days I would give up my desk and the front table so these students could take their tests. I would stand the entire time whenever that class was taking tests. I guess it was good exercise for me, but the school should have provided enough seats for my students.

  17. HS English Teacher Says:

    Class size matters because there are only so many minutes in an hour, hours in a day, and days in a week. As an English teacher, my biggest problem with class size relates to writing. Helping students to become better writers is not something I can achieve through lecture; it must be done by reading and responding to student work individually.

    The best writing instruction involves conferencing with students as they draft and revise their work, helping to guide them along the way. This cannot really be accomplished in a group, but requires individual attention. Large class sizes mean that it is much more difficult to accomplish this. What do I do with the rest of the class while I’m conferencing with a student about his or her work? If the class is smaller, classroom management is not much of an issue since the conferencing process is over fairly quickly, and students have something to work on while I am conferencing with their classmates.

    Let’s say I spend 5 minutes conferencing with each student, which is a pretty short amount to go over an essay and talk about its strengths and weaknesses as well as offer suggestions for improvement. In a class of 25, it will take me two class periods to get to everyone. In a class of 35, however, it will take four class periods to get to everyone. It may even take longer, because the more time it takes, the greater the opportunity for students to begin to misbehave or lose focus. By the time I finish conferencing in a larger class, students are getting bored or distracted, even if they were working diligently in the beginning.

    What does this mean? Either I can choose to waste some students’ time so that I can get to everyone or I can forgo these conferences all together and use less effective small group or whole class lessons about writing in general rather than the problems of that particular student. What a choice! Neither one is a good option for increasing student achievement. Small class sizes matter.

    In addition to the problems with writing instruction, the problem of assessment is enormous in larger classes. Since each additional student adds approximately 15 minutes of grading, just a few extra students per class can add hours to my grading load. This may not sound all that important to some of you; after all, so what if my workload is increasing? Well, at some point, those hours add up. Because the class goes on, I still need to plan, teach, and assess the new material for the class. I cannot devote all of my time to grading those essays. This means that that my assessment of the essays gets stretched out over a long period of time. The more students I have, the longer it takes.

    Again, I am faced with two horrible choices. I can either reduce the amount of writing that I have students complete, or I can reduce the care with which I read and respond to their writing. Neither of these options are good for student progress. Students need useful feedback in a timely manner and lots of practice if they are to improve. Larger class sizes not only increase the time it takes to give students the feedback they need, but also means that they either receive less meaningful feedback or less practice with their writing since there are just not enough hours in the day or days in the week to effectively assess more writing assignments. Smaller class sizes allow me to assign more writing with meaningful comments and get student work back to them faster. Class sizes matter!

  18. Len Dawson Says:

    Real simple, it works like this:

    I teach algebra.

    I have 55 minute periods.

    When I have a class with 34 students (which happens about once a year – the rest are usually high twenties or low thirties) I typically have to cover a new topic almost every day.

    So we start the period with a short warm up and then a lesson and then usually an assignment.

    But if I don’t get my warm up and lesson done in less than 21 minutes, then I have less than 1 minute per student to work with them one on one.

    And the scope and sequence and big stakes testing doesn’t usually give me a second day to work on it with them.

    I’m a fair teacher, but my kids would do better if I had a second minute to work with them.

  19. A. Goodman Says:

    I teach fifth grade at DE and had between 31 and 34 students all year long! I kicked and screamed until I finally got an aide but it took a lot of fighting. Add to that the fact that my numbers were high and constantly in flux, and you have a highly difficult position to be in.

  20. Susan Woodside Says:

    I would like to comment on class size where it pertains to science classes. The current best practice pedagogy in teaching science is inquiry and hands on instruction. That means lab experiences. I submit that as class size increases, safety decreases. Teenagers do not like to wear their safety goggles – they will often slip them onto their foreheads during lab. It is much easier to monitor 25 students than 45.
    Despite being instructed in the proper use of lab materials, students tend to “do it their own way”. A teacher needs to constantly monitor behavior while answering questions, replenishing lab materials, and troubleshooting equipment problems. Again – much easier and safer with <30 students, rather than more than 35.
    If we want our students to have the best and SAFEST possible science classes, those classrooms need to be smaller.

    • Mitzi Mackey @ KW Says:

      I completely agree; this is a safety issue that the administration and parents need to be aware of; classrooms built for 28 and housing 34+ are not safe lab areas for our students.

  21. Cici Says:

    I hate to tell you how many extra hours I put in for my job – we all do whether teacher, clerical or executive – it’s called work – yes we all put in more than a 40 hour week. If I complained like you do, or went on strike I’d be fired…..

    • Bawbert Says:

      Cici

      I believe you missed the point of this particular blog. Teachers are giving examples of how an extra large class affects our ability to teach. I don’t believe any of us, as teachers, believe that our work week is limited to 40 hours. Quite the contrary actually. We know that when we leave school, our work is far from over. We have papers to correct, lessons to plan for, meetings to attend, classes to attend along with taking care of our own families. If you read the entire thread here, there is no complaining about extra hours because we know it is part of the job. We want to teach the students in the best way possible and that is by having the chance to work with all of them, not just the ones we can get to today. I hope that makes it a little more clear for you.

    • Resolute Says:

      Cici-
      Really take the time to read every one of these posts. They are not just whining that they don’t have enough time to go home and wakeboard after school, these are legitimate concerns and issues that prevent us from doing our jobs effectively and will in turn drive teachers in our district away and prevent us from finding good candidates to fill their positions when they do leave.

    • kteach Says:

      It’s not just that we have to put in extra hours. I’d put in extra hours whether I had 100 students or 170. It’s that over-crowded classes affect our ability and time to work with our students. When you have time constraints because of your job, does it impact kids’ ability to learn? Teaching is a whole different world from most other workplaces. Comparing your job to mine probably isn’t relevant.

      • kenteducationassociation Says:

        Extra hours are important when you run out of them! When it is 1 am on a Sunday night, and I haven’t left the house the entire weekend because I’ve been grading papers since Friday afternoon with pauses only to sleep and eat, I get a little cranky knowing that my kids are going to ask where their papers are and I will have to say I don’t have them.

    • HS English Teacher Says:

      It’s not the extra work I am complaining about, it is the loss in education that the extra work causes. When we have so much to do, it means that what we can give each child is less. We know that we could give our students more if the system supported us. Why aren’t you angry that the kids in Kent are not supported by smaller class sizes, but the kids in Auburn, Federal Way, etc. are? This is about what class size does to the quality of children’s education, not just the workload. The two are linked, unfortunately.

      I’ll try to give you an example from another industry. My husband is a carpenter. He once worked for a company that wanted him to get a huge workload done in a day. The only way to get all that work done was to cut quality. Sure, it was good enough. The house was sturdy. But was it high quality? No. He hated it. He knew he could do better than what he was being forced to do. He also knew that there were other companies that didn’t place such a high premium on amount of work, but valued the quality of the work more. He quit his job and went to another company that valued his ability to do quality work. He even made more money at the new company. (During the recession, when all the low-quality, high-workload companies were laying people off, he kept his job!)

      The analogy applies here, in the Kent School District, as well. I am being asked to do more and more, but inevitably, the quality of what I can accomplish with my students will fall as the workload increases. It’s not about how much time I spend, it’s about what I can do in that time. Do you want quality or high class size? You can’t have both.

    • Teacher of Kent Students Says:

      Ah, but Cici, if you have work left over, you can bring it home. If we weren’t able to give a kid attention in class, we can’t bring them home at the end of the day to give them that attention.

    • Tuvok Says:

      Do you get paid for your extra hours you put in for your job? I have talked to many of my friends and whenever they have to work extra hours they are paid extra or they get to leave early later in the week. I have yet to meet anyone one with a desk job (8-5) that takes their work home. Once they are done for the day and leave the office that is it. Do you have examples from your job where your boss requires you to finish work at home? Is it monthly, weekly, or daily? I ask because to get my work done I must work extra hours daily if I want quality lessons for my students.

    • teachershusband Says:

      Cici,
      I think you missed the point. These teachers want to spend more time with their students. They all seem to be willing to give their time, they just can’t figure out how to do it with overloaded classes. They want their kids to improve and they want to show progress.
      So how many hours is it that you put in? I can tell you I earn more than my wife who is a teacher. I don’t work 1 minute over 40 hours a week. I am willing to bet that you could not even fathom the amount of hours that some of these dedicated individuals put it. Teachers? Any one keep a tally of extra hours for the year?

      • Resolute Says:

        Another music teacher in the district was doing a research project looking at the extra hours the elementary music teachers put in. This is time for extra ensembles, clubs and concerts that we don’t get paid for. I believe the current contract language gives us a stipend for three concerts but most people who do concerts do more along the lines of six, usually one per grade. These hours do not include extra hours we put in planning lessons, grading, choosing music and doing other research. What she saw among the 10 of us that responded were that over the course of the year, one teacher put in less than 100 hours, six of us put in between 100 and 200 hours and three put in over 200 hours of volunteer time. Again, these were things we chose to do to give our kids experiences that they would not normally have the opportunity for above and beyond our regular positions. I even dragged my husband in to accompany my choir as I can’t play and direct at the same time.

  22. luvtoteach Says:

    Cici, my increased workload due to a large class is not just about how it affects me but how it affects my students. I believe you when you say work hard and long hours but what are the consequences if you don’t get your work done or can’t do your job well for a day? If I am unable to meet students’ needs because of a large class workload it a can effect a child’s future. That may sound dramatic but when you are working with at risk students (my school is 75% free and reduced lunch and 1/3 ELL) the adverse impact of crowded classrooms are significant to each child’s achievement and success.

    Just like police, firemen, doctors, waitresses, dentists, and many others when you have too many to serve, the quality of service is often inadequate to meet the needs of those who need you.

    Just as in many other professions such as doctors, police, dentists, waitresses, salesmen their is a limit to the number of people you can attend to in one day and give quality service.

  23. Elementary Teacher Says:

    I used to have a management type job in the private sector and my husband is employed as an IT project manager for a business. Yes, I had to stay late and go in early and sometimes he does too. However, my husband makes MORE THAN TWICE as much as I do and gets PAID vacations and works MANY LESS hours than I do. I take work home every night and weekend, go in early and stay late. He doesn’t. I have a Master’s degree, he doesn’t. I spend my summer taking classes where I pay, he doesn’t.

    Teachers get LAID OFF every summer and break, we are NOT paid!!! Also, I am only paid for 7.5 hrs not 8! I would be willing to bet that most business people would QUIT long before they worked the hours teachers work for the pay we get! If I did not love teaching kids, I would get a job working for a business and have more TIME and MONEY to spend with my own family.

  24. Concerned Kent Parent Says:

    Class size is an issue when you have to mix such a wide-array of students. Isn’t the issue somewhat of a “No Child Left Behind” or as I like to call it “All Children Left Behind” Obviously, the Union and the District have their hands tied when it comes to this issue, but parents and educators need to take a closer look at how this is really impacting our classes. I think the implications of NCLB are creating classrooms that are not manageable, like Kent is facing and thus leaving the districts and the unions fighting. There has to be a middle ground and it seems like more give on each side is needed. I think that large classrooms wouldn’t be such an issue if schools weren’t working so hard to be incompliance to the NCLB. Honestly the whole system needs an overhaul, Fed requirements and then district requirements and student needs seem to be very different. There is constant turmoil. It wears on a person.

  25. Jimmy Hoffa Says:

    So, to the math teachers that explained it with their personal anecdotal data, how did KEA arrive at the “26” number? What’s magical about 26? Why not 25? Or 24? Or do things really start to go south at 27?

    • kenteducationassociation Says:

      Not being on the bargaining team, I can’t be sure, but I think the number they arrived at came from research into the language of neighboring districts’ contracts that have class size language, as well as through analysis of what is considered, “best practice.” That is generally how all proposals are written from our side. It’s not like they just pulled a number from the hat.

      Bear in mind that this is much like negotiating for a car. We set the low number, expecting the District to come back with a high number, and we meet in the middle. That’s what generally happens. If you want to know the essence of why we believe the District is not bargaining in good faith, it is that the District’s proposals have basically ignored our proposals, and have offered solutions that we know will not work in our classrooms. The help of an instructional assistant for one hour each day in only 5th/6th grade, for example, is light years from what we need in our classrooms, especially if we don’t teach 5th or 6th grade. In bargaining sessions in the spring, we brought several proposals to the table, only to be met with the response from the District, “What’s in it for us?” I think that says it all.

  26. KSDParent Says:

    I guess I still don’t understand why the KEA proposal includes additional compensation to the teacher when class sizes are exceeded. I feel this should be completely removed. It doesn’t help the teacher’s workload and it doesn’t help the kids. I think the extra $10 (2009-2010) to $15 (2010-2011) per day could be spent more effectively if it were pooled rather than just split into a bunch of pockets.

    • kenteducationassociation Says:

      Because it is a standard contract proposal that has worked in other Districts, such as Sumner. A friend of mine who is the former President of the Sumner Education Association says that they don’t have class size issues, because the moment the Admin sees things are out of balance, they fix it. The District has a financial incentive to remedy the situation. It also recognizes that additional students = additional time outside of class to grade, plan, etc. It’s extra pay for extra work. The same thing KSD’s “3% raise” is offering.

      • KSDParent Says:

        Wouldn’t it make more sense just to keep the aide hours in there and get rid of the option for additional compensation? It still costs the district money (there’s the incentive) but would reduce the teacher’s workload. This would help the teachers have more time with the children, right? I understand the additional compensation for more workload, but the aide hours help the teachers’ workload and therefore the children too.

      • kenteducationassociation Says:

        An aide can only do so much. That still doesn’t provide an incentive for the District to keep classes at a reasonable size.

      • Resolute Says:

        KSDParent-
        Para hours do not always help the teacher’s workload. Some are fantastic and don’t need any direction other than “Take so and so and help them with such and such.” Others are not so comfortable with their positions and teachers have to basically write additional lesson plans to help out which creates more work. Also, as one teacher shared on here, even though she qualified for an hour aid, the district never filled the position so she constantly had subs which were even more work and then the position just remained empty. The additional compensation means that the district WILL be paying the money out of pocket rather than only IF they fill the position.

  27. MiddleSchoolTeacher Says:

    Class size has been the only thing that my friends and family have ever heard me talk about. In our middle school, we teach our core classes AND 2 reading classes. The past few years, 7th grade teachers have also been required to teach an elective class. This year, the 8th grade teachers are teaching the electives.

    I am only speaking to what I know based on personal experience. The 8th grade science teachers always have larger classes than LA and SS. This is because we have our team of students that we teach in addition to the ELL and SpEd students that come to science as their ‘gen ed’ required class. So, my classes are always larger and contain students that need extra attention and support. Aide in my class? I’ve never had any assistance. While I have a classroom that looks huge, it is too small for 33, 37, 35 students to do hands on inquiry labs. Can you imagine monitoring a lab for safety?

    My school could easily reduce class sizes with no monetary impact. For FREE, they could easily reduce our class sizes. One idea is that perhaps we teach an additional section of science as opposed to the elective. How about we teach an additional section of science as opposed to the 2 reading classes, one reading class would be sufficient. How about the students who need reading don’t get an elective option until they are at grade level. Or they get one semester of reading and one of an elective. Not everyone teaches electives. How about making my elective into an ELL SpEd science class? That would make my classes smaller and meet their needs at the same time.

    I want the very best for my students and I am really troubled by the fact that I cannot give them all of the time, attention, and support that I feel they deserve simply because my class is huge.

  28. David Robinson KR (KL last year) Says:

    For the kids,

    You are absolutely right. If we go against a court order, we teach kids that it’s ok to disobey a rule when we think it’s unfair.

    In kenteducationassociation’s response, he/she pointed to teachers’ opinion of “what is morally and ethically acceptable” as the indicator of whether or not to violate the court order.

    The problem with that argument is that we are a nation of written laws and judges. So, while teachers can decide these matters for themselves all they want, because of the way our state and country works, they might find themselves out of a job with no legal objections left.

    Lisa Brackin-Johnson said, following the judge’s decision, that, “Oftentimes acts of civil disobedience have to occur to right a wrong.” The reason some kinds of civil disobedience have worked in the past is that they had a root in the Constitution and Bill of Rights, not because they went against a group’s opinion that they weren’t being treated right. Thus, when appeals were made to higher courts, those civil disobeyers were vindicated.

    When an employee signs a no-strike contract, or when state legislation requires its employees not to go on strike because it deems those services to be too crucial, there is no more legal wiggling room left. Such is the case with state employees in Washington. The only thing that will change that is changing state law, not merely violating the law with a convenient rationale.

    If I have to work in a school that has a policy that some students deem unfair, they certainly can take a stand against it. But the consequences they face aren’t up to them, they’re up to the teachers, security, and administration. It is wise for students and teachers to understand the full ramifications of their behavior, not to merely act based on a perception of unfairness or unjustness.

    Right now, Judge Darvas has said that a teacher “may subject violators to contempt proceedings”.

    Let’s hope teachers choose not to disrespect our courts.

  29. veteranteacher Says:

    Please do not paint “teachers” with such a broad brush. Some revel in this strike, some see it as a necessary evil, some are opposed, but honor the majority, and others are opposed and have not joined the picket lines. I did not choose to join the union, but I reluctantly supported the strike last week in the hope that it might make KSD finally take the concerns of teachers seriously. In all my years in the Kent district, I have only seen one administrator who was worth the pay (my opinion, of course) and that person is now retired. EVERY other administrator I have known in Kent left the classroom as soon as possible because they wanted more pay. This really ISN’T about pay, but it IS about money – the money it will cost to provide what the union is asking for. The powers-that-be in the district will punish teachers and students for this strike in the end, but there will be no responsibility placed upon the administrators who set the stage for the conditions that preceded it. I opposed the strike in the first place because I thought there should have been another way to solve our differences. I have been on the picket line every day since then, though, in the hope that the district would take things seriously. Last night I voted against defying the court order, though. This has become a no-win situation and it causes me great grief. I do not think that either KEA or KSD care about the carnage that they will leave when this is over. I am sorry that parents think this is a reason to teach their kids not to respect teachers and I am sorry that the lack of respect for teachers that has only gotten worse in recent years is reinforced on all sides. If parents truly want to teach their children something through this, then tell them that teachers are human being who deal with difficult situations in varying ways. Don’t stereotype teachers any more than you want teachers to stereotype your kids.

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