Home Home Home About Us Home About Us About Us About Us /links/index.html /links/index.html /links/index.html /advertising/index.html /links/index.html /advertising/index.html /advertising/index.html /advertising/index.html About Us About Us /archives/index.html About Us /archives/index.html About Us /archives/index.html /archives/index.html /subscribe/index.html /archives/index.html /subscribe/index.html /archives/index.html /subscribe/index.html /subscribe/index.html /survey/index.html /subscribe/index.html /survey/index.html /subscribe/index.html /survey/index.html /survey/index.html /survey/index.html /links/index.html /survey/index.html /links/index.html /links/index.html /links/index.html
Home About Us About Us /links/index.html /advertising/index.html /advertising/index.html
About Us /archives/index.html /archives/index.html /subscribe/index.html /subscribe/index.html /survey/index.html /survey/index.html /survey/index.html /links/index.html










Camps & Sports


Children’s Corner

Collected Features


Cover Stories

Distance Learning


Famous Interviews


Medical Update

Metro Beat

Movies & Theater


Music, Art & Dance

Special Education

Spotlight On Schools

Teachers of the Month


















New York City
September 2003

The Case for Smaller Classes
by Randi Weingarten, President, United Federation of Teachers

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to stand on the steps of City Hall with representatives of a broad coalition of parent and community groups, labor unions, and elected officials, including City Council Speaker Gifford Miller, Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, and Assembly Member Steve Sanders, to announce a major step forward in the campaign to improve our schools.

On that day in August our coalition—New Yorkers for Smaller Classes—presented the City Clerk with the signatures of more than 114,000 New York City voters who are calling for creation of a commission that will review the city charter with a focus on class sizes in the public schools.

The need for smaller classes in New York City’s public schools is an issue that unites our communities. Most parents would love to have their children in classes small enough for their kids to get more individual attention from their teachers. People without children can understand how classrooms with fewer students are likely to be more manageable and make better learning environments. And educators know from first-hand experience that smaller classes can be critical for many kids.

In June the highest court in New York State confirmed that lower class size is crucial to assuring every child in New York City a sound basic education.

The fact is class size has long been ranked by parents, the public and teachers as one of the most important factors in serious education reform. And that is true not just here in New York City but across the nation. Class size mandates are a growing national trend. Dozens of states already have class size reduction legislation in place, including California, Florida, Texas, Kentucky and Washington. On a municipal level, voters in Minneapolis recently overwhelmingly approved a class size referendum for the third time.

Research confirms success
This is not surprising in light of the solid research showing the merits of small class size. Back in 1985, the state of Tennessee began a class size reduction plan for grades K-3 that resulted in greatly improved student achievement, particularly for chýldren in poverty. Over a four-year period, researchers studied children assigned to one of three types of classes: small, with 13 to 17 students; regular, with 22 to 25 students; and regular with a classroom aide. The researchers found that students in small consistently outperformed other students in math and reading every year at all grade levels. What’s more, those students continued to outperform their peers right through high school.

A 1998 Princeton University study of a Milwaukee program also found that class size reductions have a positive effect on student achievement overall and an especially significant impact on poor children.

Other key components
Of course, smaller classes are not the only factor in better schools. Children also need a qualified teacher in every classroom, along with adequate supplies, challenging curricula and a safe and orderly environment. High academic standards have to be established and met.

But smaller classes are a key ingredient in student success, particularly in conjunction with these other factors.

We have made progress in some of these areas. The last teachers’ contract made starting salaries more competitive and attracted more certified teachers. The mayor made a real effort to see that thousands of new books were delivered before the start of the school year. And the UFT is always pushing the mayor and the chancellor to do whatever is necessary to ensure school safety, and we will continue to do so.

ýt’s time to seriously tackle the issue of class size. Even though the city and state governments have allocated funding to reduce class size in New York City for years, classes remain too large—20 to 36 percent larger than those in the rest of the state.

100,000 New York City voters agree
New Yorkers for Smaller Classes gathered more than twice the required number of voter signatures to ensure that our petitions can withstand any challenges. But we’re not out of the woods yet. Right-wing critics are already ganging up on this proposal, and its placement on the ballot may be challenged by the Mayor, who has his own charter proposal about eliminating party primaries. Even when the proposal gets on the ballot, it would be another year before voters get to decide on the Charter Review Commission’s recommendations regarding lowering class size.

New Yorkers need to give serious thought to just how crucial smaller class size is to education reform. Myopic nay-sayers who look only at budgetary bottom lines will say it isn’t a real issue. But anyone who truly wants our schools to improve must realize that other efforts to make them better will go only so far unless the class size issue is addressed head on. The 1.1 million students in our school system deserve no less.#

City: State:

Education Update, Inc., P.O. Box 1588, New York, NY 10159.
Tel: (212) 477-5600. Fax: (212) 477-5893. Email: ednews1@aol.com.
All material is copyrighted and may not be printed without express consent of the publisher. © 2003.