Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Class Size Credit?

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush has been on sort of a media tour touting what he calls the "Florida Miracle." Florida was in the dumps educationally before his governorship, and he claims that his reforms helped lift Florida into one of the most improved states in the country. Staff members of his education foundation have also been writing editorials praising the governor's past reforms and urging current politicians to continue pass reforms of the same mold.

I do not doubt that some of his policies had a positive impact on the education system in Florida. But something else happened during his tenure as governor that never seems to receive credit in the media. In what I have read and seen, he and his foundation staffers have never mentioned this either. Florida passed a constitutional amendment in 2002 placing limits on class sizes. The amendment limits class sizes to 18 students in Pre-K through third grade, 22 students in fourth through eight grade, and 25 students in high school. Though some modifications have been made for non-core (which translates to "non-tested") courses, these class sizes pretty much stand as written. Districts face fines for violations. 

Many teachers on comments sections of news articles mention the Class Size Amendment as an integral part of the state's improvement and their own personal success in the classroom, but the only thing mentioned in the media in regard to Florida's improvement is an improved testing and accountability system. Why is that the case? I guess it would be hard to credit class size reductions when the dominate political party in the education reform circle constantly argues that class sizes do not matter. This is contrary to what many private schools, charter schools, community colleges, and small liberal arts colleges believe. Virtually all of these institutions use class size as advantage in their advertising. 

I know that public school funds are not unlimited and schools everywhere may not be able to attain such strict class size provisions, but reformers can no longer continue to deny or ignore the fact that these class size regulations may have played just as much or more of a role in Florida's success over the past few years as the reforms they are now trying to spread to other states. 

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