Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Texas Legislature: Opting Against Education

When it comes to having a choice between spending money at the current level for the education of Texas’ children, and cutting funding for schools because of a projected shortfall, depend on Republican State Reps and Senators to opt against education.

Next on the GOP chopping block for the Texas legislature is none other than class size. Keeping class size low, by state law, as it turns out, costs Texas millions and millions dollars that contribute toward a deficit that Texas can ill-afford.

Because public education, being a socialist ideal anyway, is now bad policy in the Republican Party. State Senator Dan Patrick lays it out for all to see in his very revealing summation in the Dallas Morning News, via the Austin American-Statesman:

“The Dallas Morning News reported Monday that state Sen. Dan Patrick of Houston says the 22-student limit is costing school districts ‘millions and millions of dollars’ without any evidence that it boosts student performance.”

On the chopping block, as the legislature stares at an $11 billion shortfall in the next fiscal year, is not upping the limit on class size at the high school level, as is the current fashion in Texas, but upping the statutory limit in elementary schools.

Class size in elementary schools has been limited by statute to 22 pupils for the past 25 years. If an elementary class enrollment reaches 23, by law a new class must be created, and a new teacher must be hired to lead it.

If State Senator Dan Patrick and others of his ilk has his way, elementary school children will be placed in larger and larger classes.

But that’s OK, says Patrick, there is no evidence that this costly law has any effect on student performance.

That’s what I like about my Texas legislators when they are made to consider a cut in funding for essential public services like education. When faced with these choices, rather than do the research, they pull facts out of their rectums.

Facts like class size has no bearing on student performance, and there are no studies that support that view.

Patrick, apparently, doesn’t lend any credence to a New York state study (PDF file), one that actually looked at class size in view of New York state making cuts along the lines that are currently envisioned by Dan Patrick – but at the university level.

According to the study, size matters.

“…increasing class size has a negative effect on student achievement. The model predicts that a student in a class of 5 has a probability of receiving an A of .52. This is 2.4 times higher than a student in a class of 290 students, where the predicted probability of receiving an A is .22. Furthermore, we find that increasing class size lowers student achievement at a decreasing rate. This means that adding 10 students to a class of 10 has a larger negative impact on grades than adding 10 students to a class of 200.”

Now in this study, one that took place a New York’s Binghampton University, we are talking about post secondary education here. These are mature and maturing students who are able to be flexible and adjust to life’s challenges. Imagine what it must be like to an 8- or 9-year old who now finds his classes are so large that the attention to his needs has been diluted by class size increases.

Additionally, what is not even considered is what the teacher must do in order to maintain order in a larger class population and at the same time deliver a lesson to a room built to hold 22 children.

Yes, school classrooms built within the last two decades are built to statutory limits as defined by the Texas Administrative Code. Classroom size, as in square-footage, is also specified statutorily, and assumed in the square-footage, is the presence of 22 students and no more.

In short, Dan Patrick is all wet. Not only are there studies that reveal the adverse effects of increasing class size on performance, but Texas state law spells out how large elementary classrooms shall be built with an eye to them not having more than 22 students housed in them.

So, given a choice between quality of education of Texas’ children, and not having to raise revenue to cover an anticipated shortfall, which do you think our noble state legislators will opt for?

Hint: Public education is socialism.

1 comment:

Teddy Wilson said...

Sounds like Texas Republicans are taking their cues from Utah Republicans.