Class size debate heats up; does size matter?

March 2, 2009

Several states tried to reduce class size, but generally class sizes have not been reduced and are increasing again.

So, does class size affect student achievement?

The New York Times featured a story about a week ago on class size creeping up in New York City; and now there are comments in the letters section.

At recent legislative hearings on whether to renew mayoral control of the New York City schools, lawmakers and parents alike have asked, again and again, why Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Chancellor Joel I. Klein have not done more to reduce class size. On Tuesday, the Education Department issued a report that found the average number of children per class increased in nearly every grade this school year.

“If you’re going to spend an extra dollar, personally, I would always rather spend it on the people that deliver the service,” Mr. Bloomberg said when asked about the report on Thursday, calling class size “an interesting number.”

“It’s the teacher looking a child in the eye, and teachers can look lots of children in the eye,” he added. “If you have to have smaller class size or better teachers, go with the better teachers every time.”

Is that even the issue?

Does class size matter?  Can a great teacher teach 40 students in a class, 200 students a day, better than a mediocre teacher can teach a smaller number?

How could we possibly know?

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Texas Independence Day, March 2

March 2, 2009

The place to be today is Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historical Site, looking back 173 years.

Here on March 2 of that year [1836], 59 delegates signed the six-page document that declared the Republic of Texas free and independent of Mexico.

As related in the Dallas Morning News, it was a fretful time in Texas.

The convention delegates actually gathered on March 1, 1836, a month after they were elected and sent to Washington, a growing town on the Brazos River less than 100 miles northwest of what now is Houston.

The convention within weeks would adopt a constitution amid a swift series of events. While they were meeting, Travis and his men were killed at the Alamo. And just over another month later, Gen. Sam Houston’s army would defeat the Mexicans in the famous Battle of San Jacinto.

And, just in time for this year’s celebration, researchers announced they have recovered a document lost from the Texas State Archives for a century, the order for copies of the Texas Declaration to be copied and printed.  Jim Bevill found the scrap of paper placed haphazardly in a file now housed at Southern Methodist University (SMU).

Michael Paulsen Chronicle  Author Jim Bevill found the order issued on March 2, 1836, for the first copies of the Texas Declaration of Independence in a collection donated to the Southern Methodist University library. The order had long been missing from the state archives

Author Jim Bevill found the order issued on March 2, 1836, for the first copies of the Texas Declaration of Independence in a collection donated to the Southern Methodist University library. The order had long been missing from the state archives. Photo by Michael Paulsen, Houston Chronicle

Bevill was doing research for his upcoming book, The Paper Republic, a history of the Republic of Texas from the viewpoint of economics rather than the usual military perspective.

The new Texas government was desperately short of money. Investors in New Orleans refused to give the fledgling country a loan until Texas officially declared independence from Mexico.

The document Bevill found was an order sent to San Felipe to have printers make five handwritten copies and 1,000 printed copies of the declaration.

Hope you have a good Texas Independence Day.  We have grades due.

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