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- Why We Should Teach Meditation in the Classroom - November 8, 2016
- Strike! - October 5, 2016
- Teaching a Superpower - September 22, 2016
- Essentially, I am a Teacher - August 30, 2016
- A Chicago Teacher's Dream - January 22, 2016
- A Career in Crisis - August 27, 2015
- Classroom Community and Rock-Paper-Scisssors - July 22, 2015
- The Art of Teaching - June 22, 2015
- Parent tip: Beyond Sounding It Out - June 4, 2015
100! 100 children were placed last year in a Kindergarten class as an experiment in learning. Of course, this isn’t being tried at a private school whose students are children of our country’s top earners. It is being tried in one of the most impoverished neighborhoods in Detroit. The students are all placed in the former school library and share three teachers. The grouping is called a “hub” and most of the day is spent with the whole group together during instruction. Some math and reading instruction is given in three "small" leveled groups. Hmm…small groups of 33?
This huge Kindergarten alarms me. It goes against everything I know about early childhood learning. There are a myriad of questions that I would like to ask this school administration about their academic choices for their youngest learners.
Let's start with the solid research.
1. Why are you ignoring the evidence? There have been numerous reports showing that small class size is tied to greater learning. In fact, the most respected of these reports, The Tennessee Student teacher Achievement Ration Project (STAR) has tracked students since the 1990s. It shows that the ideal class size is 13 to 17 students to teacher. This is most especially true with children of color and those from low-income homes. It shows a much higher rate of not only high school graduation but college graduation as well.
2. Why is the combined experience of the teachers sharing this room only eight or nine years? This classroom with a 1:33 teacher-student ratio has a serious lack of experience of the teachers. The most veteran teacher is 30 years old, meaning she has only about five or six years of work experience, at the most. The other two teachers are their in first and second years teaching. I have known many highly competent teachers in their 20s but a crowded co-teaching environment is not an ideal situation for first or second year teachers.
3. Did your school take into account what is developmentally appropriate for the kindergarteners? Five year old children are at a stage that requires constant reassurance. According to Chip Wood, development specialist, fives depend on authority for permission to do nearly everything, to move onto something new, and approval. A large student-teacher ratio is going to stretch the ability for teachers to help children to move toward independence. They also need hands-on and creative time in the classroom. To accomplish this in a large class would be a monumental management task.
4. How do three teachers offer consistent discipline? Fives love to test limits and authority, so consistency is imperative. How do you monitor the dozens of potential behavior scenarios? Are all three teachers rigorously uniform in their responses to acting out by a child? If not, the wild creative manipulation of attention is going to be mind boggling.
5. In a class that size, how do you become an expert on each and everyone of the students? Who falls through the cracks? As the saying goes, the squeakiest wheel gets the most grease. So the shy, or inarticulate, or nervous child gets over looked. Is there a mechanism to make sure that doesn’t happen? I have my doubts.
6. How do your teachers manage a whole group activity? Large group instruction requires, for the lack of a better phrase, tough love. That has been my experience with twenty-some children. How can it even be feasible with 100 kids? How do they stay on task? How do you sit them in one place? I mean that is more than two school buses full of children.
7. Can community be built with 100 children? Kindergarteners need to know everyone in their room. They need to feel secure in their environment. A safe classroom where learning risks can be taken is a place where a child knows and trusts the majority of the people around him. How can that happen with such a large group?
8. Is there some secret way to manage the shear volume of it? However you cut it, there are still 100 coats to put on at the end of the day, 100 lunches to be served, and 100 grades to be entered into the grade book. Worse even, there are 100 kids to get to the bathroom a couple times a day. That is simply mind boggling.
On the plus side, it would make for an easy 100 Day of School activity.
9. What educational pedagogy did you use to justify this dramatic break from all the evidence to the contrary of your 100 kindergarteners in one room. Your school says it is working and people should come and see it before they criticize it. I’ll accept that it is always better to see something before you judge, however, it seems detrimental for Kindergarten students to be learning in a crowd.
You say the children are learning and succeeding. I will say that I believe most five year old will learn if you ignored them and let them to themselves. Maria Montessori believed that too.
10. Is this happening because it is convenient or because of money? Did you need to solve staffing difficulties? Personally, I believe you are taking advantage of children and families when you ignore what is known to work to make things easier for you, either financially or managerially. I have concerned that these children are being made into the guinea pigs of education because of their financial situation.
How can we as educators afford to do this? Am I the only person who is morally offended by it?