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Class Size and Charter Schools

As I continue to visit charter schools in Manhattan, I am struck with the prevalence of arrangements in which there are two teachers in a classroom. The classrooms themselves often have between 20 to 30 children, but the kids are frequently split into two groups or some other arrangement in which they seem to be getting more attention than the typical single-teacher approach. A few thoughts on this:

1. Aaron Pallas wrote yesterday “One of the truisms about class size reduction is that, if the student population stays constant, the only way to reduce class size is to increase the number of classes, which requires more classroom space.” This makes sense to me, but is the goal class size reduction, i.e. reducing students per foot of classroom space, or is it to reduce the student-teacher ratio in classroom settings? Is class size important for reasons beyond the student-teacher ratio in classroom settings? How important are these other reasons?

2. In part, charter schools are able to afford lowering the student-teacher ratio because they generally employ younger teachers and they don’t participate in the UFT benefit plan. Since most charter schools roughly follow the UFT salary scale, they can’t afford to compete with salaries for the most senior teachers.

3. Charter schools sometimes utilize junior teachers or apprentice teachers (my invented titles) to work with more senior teachers. These junior teachers often get paid less than first year teachers in traditional public schools. Interestingly, these teachers seem to be getting practical apprentice teacher preparation in the manner suggested by many people in the comment sections from Aaron’s recent post here and mine here. Simultaneously, they are providing additional attention to students, particularly at the lower grades.

What do readers think of these charter school experiments? Are they relevant to traditional public schools?

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