Saturday, December 5, 2009

Low Class Size is Precious

I saw the galvanizing movie "Precious" last night and it was riveting. I heard a lot about it but hadn't realized how much it was about teaching and education. Precious, a black teenager who had two children after being raped by her father and suffers from one of the most awful mothers imaginable (I saw a few myself- I'm working on one story which I'll post this weekend and link back here), is given an opportunity to go to an alternative school, where a dedicated teacher helps save her and her classmates.

Now we know all the ed deformers – and we have to make note that Oprah was a key person behind this film and her Chicago roots and attachments to Obama probably put her in that category – will make the amazing teacher, Ms. Blu Rain, the key element. But note how small the group she is working with and ask if she could do anything like that work with a full-size class. But just watch how this factor is ignored.

Contrast that situation to Precious' former school where her favorite teacher struggles to control a rowdy math class and is presented as being ineffective. But if he and Ms. Rain were to switch places, I wonder how things would work out? Would Ms. Rain be able to have 30 rowdy kids multiplied by 5 classes work on their writing and be able to read and comment on every one every day? Maybe. Maybe for a year or two before burning out. Could she take into her home the numerous kids in trouble she would face?

In all the hubbub over the film "Precious," don't forget one of the keys to the film is the extremely low class size and the support mechanism the school provides.

Think of the enormous effort on the part of one teacher to save this one child and add the multiplier effect. Too expensive will say the ed deformer Joel Kleinites as people like Christopher Cerf whine, "It has been shown that throwing cash at the problem doesn't solve it." Well they threw cash at GM, AIG, Bear Sterns, but alas not at Lehman Bros. The Precious people of this world apparently don't deserve to have cash thrown at an attempt to solve their problems by those deformers claiming to be fighting for civil rights.

The 4th season of The Wire also showed a troubled class of low class size and more than one adult in the room as being effective. Note how in all the discussion by the ed deformers for solutions to education, the idea of small groups is left out. Unless it involves charter schools, of course. BloomKlein with all the money they have been throwing around, never tried one case of inundating a poorly performing school with piles of teachers before closing it.

Expensive? Hell, yes. But they are throwing around 500 billion in stimulus money. Ask why they don't offer it to systems that figure out ways to reduce class size and you begin to understand how the true agenda is to move the control of schools out of public control and into private hands.

1 comment:

proofoflife said...

I watched the movie and read the book last week. I too thought how sad it will be for all those teachers who have a class full of Precious and are expected to work miracles. My sister who has been a HS special ed teacher for over 20 years was displaced when a large Bronx HS was broken into many small schools. She is a great teacher and sadly her student population was far below grade level. Is it the teachers fault if these kids were passed along in a system where funding depends on how many seats you fill? Now they want to judge us on students test scores? Give us a break. Great words from Mulgrew , but what I want to know is what are we as a union going to do about it??