This is my second post in a series on the achievement gap that exists in our country. Read yesterday’s post here.
So in a recent article in the Detroit News, it was reported that the newly agreed upon contract between the Detroit Federation of Teachers (DFT) and Detroit Public Schools (DPS) allows for increased class sizes. Times are tough, to say the least. DPS is a district in financial crisis. Mismanagement, corruption, and declining enrollment over the past several decades is taking a toll. And with a new announcement about increased class size limits, it appears that it will be students who will be forced to bear the burden of all of this.
I’m going to hold back on the big reveal of the numbers for a minute to say that I understand that there are many who argue that it’s not class size that matters when it comes to effectively educating children. I, however, am not one of these people. You can’t tell me that having fewer students in a class doesn’t make a difference. I’ve taught classes of up to 35 kids and classes with as few as 16. Trust me, it makes a difference.
That being said, here’s the information from the article:
In grades K-3, the class maximum is 25. But under the new contract with the Detroit Federation of Teachers, which took effect July 1, a class would need to reach 41 students before DPS moves to reduce it.
In grades 4-5, where 30 is the limit, it would take 46 students to trigger a response. In grades 6-12, where class sizes were increased to 35, leveling efforts would begin once the class reaches 61 students.
Many questions obviously come to mind. Is this happening in other school districts around the country? Why would any teachers’ union sign a contract with this in it? Are the parents just going to take this lying down? (Short answer: Some will. Others will continue to flee.) And, finally (and perhaps most importantly), are you kidding me? Seriously, is this really happening?
There is no doubt in my mind that situations like this contribute to the widening of the achievement gap. How could they not? And it’s distressing because stories like this come out (brilliantly published on a Friday in July, I might add) and while they do garner 65 comments from News readers, there’s little, if any, public outrage. If this story doesn’t stir the masses, how are we ever going to close the gap?
Think about it…if you drove just 10 miles from downtown Detroit to the posh, affluent suburb of Grosse Pointe, and announced that class sizes could potentially increase to 61, what would happen? I think we know the answer to that. But somehow it’s okay in a city where the achievement gap is already wider than possibly any other place in the country.
So what exactly am I getting at here? I suppose my main point is that we can never close the gap until we stop widening it. In places like Detroit, as long as people allow this sort of thing to happen (I seriously think it should be considered a crime…but more on that tomorrow), we’ll never come anywhere close to moving in the right direction. Some sort of outrage, pushback, civil disobedience needs to occur, it seems. Is it possible that’s the only way to stop this? I wish I knew. What I do know is that putting more students into classrooms isn’t the answer. And I also know it’s time to start talking about it a lot more than we have been.
Hopefully, you’ll check back tomorrow for another post on the achievement gap. I’ll be looking at a story that might surprise you. Please consider subscribing to our blog so you don’t miss that, or any other, post.