By next Monday (Oct. 16), school districts throughout Florida are supposed to be in compliance with the state constitution’s class-size (Pre-K-3/18, 4-8/22, 9-12/25) amendment. Here in Hillsborough County, as elsewhere, that means a lot of last-minute scurrying around in a number of schools to create space, split classes and, especially, add extra teachers. Co-teaching – sometimes a worthwhile tact but often a gimmick – is now a favorite strategy.
If state-required (school) averages are not met, then more state money must be diverted to new construction.
Basically it’s reality-check time.
All things being equal and sufficient funds being readily available, smaller class size is always a clear winner. Who wouldn’t want to improve the learning environment? But all things are never equal and sufficient funding is typically siphoned from somewhere else.
Now ominously looming is the trade-off that pedagogical — as well as political –Cassandras warned of when voters passed the class-size amendment in 2002. Absent enough additional room, you will need more teachers. Alas, they’re in demand, and there’s a real premium on good ones. The best and the brightest still don’t come calling on education for a career.
So we have teachers exchanging their planning periods for extra pay to co-teach. None but the myopically idealistic would confuse a stop-gap measure with sound educational strategy. You’ll also have more teachers teaching outside their major certification areas to fill vacancies.
As important as teacher-student ratios can be, nothing is more important than a quality teacher. The trade off just isn’t worth it.