Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Is Bigger Really Better?

By Sean Scarpiello

Currently in New Jersey, there has been a huge cut in education funding. This has left school districts with the job of finding cheaper ways to educate students. One of the main ways districts have reduced costs is by laying off teachers. This then causes class sizes to increase. What effects does this have on the quality of education being given to students? Perhaps larger classes may benefit students, or maybe not.

In the field of education, experts are always arguing that smaller is better. Students get more individualized attention and can get the help they need. It also gives teachers the ability to focus on individuals in class and get them where they need to be. The idea of smaller classes being better holds true for only two groups, students in grades 1 to 8 and special education students. Younger students will definitely benefit from having more one on one contact with teachers, as well as students who can’t learn in a regular classroom and need extra help in learning the basics.

Other than that, there hits a point when you are around 15 years old and you have to become more independent. In actuality, a classroom with 30 to 35 students is not going to affect your learning. If anything, it will be a good transition for junior high and high school students as they prepare for college. Many will argue that teachers in English and Math will overlook struggling students because of this large number of students. That is not a valid argument. Starting in 6th grade, teachers have always made themselves available for extra help at lunch or after school. There is a point in high school where students need to sink or swim on their own. If students cannot be somewhat self-sufficient and independent by this time of their lives, then they aren’t ready to be accepted into colleges and universities. Each of these characteristics is vital as most college students are attending larger colleges and universities with even larger classes.

Within the past few years, parents have caused their children to become more dependent of teachers’ authority. There have even been cases where schools have banned playing tag at recess and avoided contact sports in gym class due to their argumentative nature. This sort of authoritative voice which accompanies smaller class sizes is ruining students’ independence in school. In the real world, everyone has to settle arguments and learn to deal with different sorts of people; it would make sense that children learn to compromise in school. Smaller classes in high schools are not helping students as much as experts tend to believe. This example is just the start of how smaller classes are turning teachers into replacement mommies and daddies, which only hinder independence and intelligence for students.

There is also the argument that teachers will assign fewer papers and make easier tests so they lessen their increased workload. It is pretty rare that this would be the case because most junior high and high schools have very rigorous curriculums which are highly monitored by the school’s administration. In schools where this is a problem, there is an easy fix. It’s called unemployment. If high school teachers were getting laid off because they needed less teachers to teach larger classes, teachers would be working harder than ever to avoid getting laid off or fired and placed into a sector of unemployment where there is a low demand for teachers and a large supply of them.

Although I preach the bigger is better theory, some students are more comfortable in a smaller setting for high school and college classes, and there is nothing wrong with that. The point is that to provide a cheaper, yet equal quality education, an increase in high school class sizes will not hurt the students in the long run.

Source: http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2010/11/nj_schools_struggle_with_incre.html

No comments: