In today’s Education Next, Public Impact Co-Directors Bryan C. Hassel and Emily Ayscue Hassel take a look at the seductiveness of the concept of reducing class sizes–and why policymakers should resist temptation.
“The answer’s pretty simple,” they write. “A large-scale reduction requires hiring massively more teachers, dipping deeper and deeper into the applicant pool. It also reduces the number of students who have excellent teachers—the ones who produce more than a year’s worth of student growth each year, necessary to close proficiency gaps and help students leap ahead.”
Multi-Classroom Leader Erin Burns recently showed new N.C. Superintendent Mark Johnson around West Charlotte High, where Johnson served a two-year earth science teaching stint a decade ago. In EdNC, Burns writes that when she first arrived at the school, the year after Johnson left, she encountered a “corrosive culture” that drove her to find a teaching job at another school. But, Burns writes, “I wanted to return to West Charlotte if I could lead and create change there for more students. The new Project LIFT initiative gave me that chance using the concept of an Opportunity Culture.”
Burns showed Johnson all that had changed since his time teaching. As the biology MCL, Burns helped change the work culture, creating strong relationships on the biology teaching team, a “true sense of shared ownership for our students’ successes,” and “an open system of feedback and dialogue.” And she brought with her what had led her to excellence at her previous school: a focus on data to improve instruction.
“This data focus has made a huge difference: In just my first year as MCL, the team moved from negative growth—falling short of the state’s annual student growth expectations—to meeting growth,” Burns writes. “And in preliminary numbers from this fall, we’re seeing an increase in student proficiency from 22 percent to 38 percent. The journey isn’t over yet; we still have many more students to reach if we stick with it.”