Class size doesn’t matter (when it comes to your kids), says Romney

Republican nominee for President, Mitt Romney, is beginning to take some heat for his statements on the irrelevance of class size… Essentially, he’s come out saying that smaller class sizes don’t necessarily correlate to better educational outcomes, and educators are beginning to call him on it. (When pushed, he backed-up his claim by relaying an anecdote about how some of the smallest classrooms in Cambridge turned out the poorest performing students in the entire state of Massachusetts. I haven’t begun digging yet, but I’d be willing to bet that the kids in these classrooms were already performing poorly, which is why they were put into small classrooms to begin with, but we’ll leave that for another day… He also referenced a McKenzie study, which, according to him, showed that high performing schools in Singapore, Finland and South Korea had roughly the same number of students in their classrooms as we do.) The message, I think, is clear. The reasons that our kids… especially our poor kids… aren’t doing well academically, has nothing to do with public education funding, and everything to do with the involvement of their parents. It’s the perfect Republican argument, in that it removes all blame from those, like Romney, who continue to push for the further defunding of public education. According to his logic, you see, it doesn’t matter if Detroit gets to a point where they’re warehousing 60 kids in every classroom. Those kids wouldn’t have succeeded even if they’d had the same student-to-teacher ratio that we enjoy, here, in Ann Arbor. (And, let’s not forget that some introductory courses at Harvard have as many at 300 students in them, right?) Of course, it’s not a hypothesis he seems willing to explore when it comes to his own family… It’s being reported today that the private school that Romney sent his sons to, the Belmont Hill School, advertises an average class size of 12… Personally, I don’t care that the guy sent his kids to private school, but it pisses me off that he has the nerve to stand up in front of America and lie through his teeth, saying that there’s no evidence that kids learn better in environments where they can be given individual attention… Sure, I’ll agree that a lot of the blame lies with the parents, but don’t tell me that the kid in a classroom of 12 is likely to have the same educational outcomes as someone in a class of 45. That’s just insulting.

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  1. Alice Krum
    Posted May 28, 2012 at 11:05 pm | Permalink

    In Romney’s defense, he didn’t send his kids to that school because they offered small classes, and an individualized learning environment. He sent them there so that, like him, they could bully homosexuals without fear of recourse.

  2. Dave Wilkinson
    Posted May 29, 2012 at 7:09 am | Permalink

    Given the abundance of real estate in Michigan it would make sense to turn the failing public schools into boarding schools. Eliminate the entire home environment for students that want to participate.

  3. Knox
    Posted May 29, 2012 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    He’s right. It’s not just about class size. Historically, you can point to large classes of high achieving kids. In affluent areas, where parents invest time and money, and there’s a culture that values academic success, it’s likely that you could have large classes in which a majority of students succeed. That’s not the norm, though. And it’s ridiculous to suggest as much. The truth is, a lot of things contribute toward academic success. Parents making a living wage certainly helps. Maybe, if he’s not willing to talk about class size, he’d be willing to talk about that.

  4. Posted May 29, 2012 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    While I don’t agree with the Republican mantra of blaming parents, I have to say that in my experience, parental involvement makes a HUGE amount of difference. Other teachers have said, and I agree–you can have a not-great teacher & great parents and still get over okay. But even a great teacher is limited in what s/he can do when you have lousy parents.

    Now, would it help if low income districts had small classes? Sure! But at the end of the day, the kids go home. It’s hard to overcome serious dysfunction (i.e. drugs, no one working, “uncles” in and out of the house, no supervision) and sometimes can be hard to inspire students to want more. I know that sounds weird, but think about it. Who am I to tell them that their way of life is not productive? How do I stay this without offending the kid or having the kid go home and repeat what I say, thus alienating the family? Think about it…if you have grown up your entire life watching your family sit around, hang out and do their thing, you could think that is the way it is. People are struggling, sure, but no one is starving and there is a roof over your head. If you are getting by, why would you want to bust your ass at some shitty job, just to make minimum wage and put up with all of the bullshit that a job entails? Sure, you could go to college and maybe get a job paying $35,000/year, but again, that is a lot of work. Add into the mix that your family may think you have turned your back on them and treat you differently. What would you do?

    I’ve kind of gotten off track, and yes, I am basing this scenario on a few, select families that I dealt with when teaching in the D. So obviously, my experience is limited. (There was a family that sort of abandoned an aunt who became–get this–a teacher. There is a great scene in the Wire where something similar happens…Cuddy goes looking for an old girlfriend and the family sneers, “She thinks she’s good…she a teacher” or something like that. I literally jumped up and was like, “Holy shit–that’s the —- family!!”)

    At the end of the day, here is what I want to know…how do we overcome a lackluster family or lack of family support? I’d like to prove the Republicans wrong and say that families shouldn’t matter, but I can’t do that at this point.

  5. EOS
    Posted May 29, 2012 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    Maybe we could create a culture that encourages kids to refrain from sex and making babies until they have graduated and are working in a stable job that provides enough income for a family. Maybe we should encourage young girls not to aspire to be single parents for the offspring of an immature baby daddy.

  6. Brainless
    Posted May 29, 2012 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    Jesus Christ, EOS. You just love to go there, eh?

    How ’bout we also encourage a culture of life that doesn’t think anything about sending 5,000 troops to die in the desert for no reason, too. How ’bout we also encourage a culture where a personal net worth of a billions dollars is a sickness known as hoarding?

    I doubt you give nearly as much thought to those things as this utterly fucking bizarre obsession you nutjobs have with other peoples’ sex lives. Life used to have meaning until it became the norm to send poor people to die for rich peoples’ things.

  7. EOS
    Posted May 29, 2012 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    O.K. Brainless. I’ll agree with your two cultural changes. Now will you consider the advantage of waiting to have babies until you are in a financially secure and stable marriage?

  8. Brainless
    Posted May 29, 2012 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    Only in a healthy culture. What you fail to realize is that the decisions of our fearless leaders have had dire consequences for the health of our society. When undeclared war became the norm starting with Korea to some extent and then Viet Nam, life lost all meaning. So sure, encourage everyone to have babies later. That’s a no brainer. But don’t expect for one second that anybody will actually give a shit about this encouragement. When the end result of ALL actions is an unfair, unjust world, why bother?

  9. EOS
    Posted May 29, 2012 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    If the end were as you say, few would bother. However, many live so as to gain life in a world that is fair, just, and eternal. Don’t give up – put your hope in Christ.

    Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

  10. Anonymous Mike
    Posted May 29, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    Of course a man like Romney would say “size doesn’t matter.” He’s probably been telling himself that for years.

  11. Topher
    Posted May 29, 2012 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    @TeacherPatti – I agree that families do matter. This is why the KIPP model has been so successful in urban areas – they extend the school day so that there is less “down time” at home. For more affluent students this “down time” may be filled with private lessons, or other enriching activities. For various reasons, students in lower SES seem to need the structure that KIPP provides.

    In regard to the McKenzie study – we need to be able to consider the variance in culture (Singapore, Finland, and South Korea are very different from The United States in regard to values, education, and cultural norms). In general I think The U.S. has a culture that doesn’t necessarily value Education and teachers (although it sees the necessity of Education) whereas those in the McKenzie study have a drastically different view of Education.

  12. Mr. Y
    Posted May 29, 2012 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    You can find anecdotes to support any theory. The fact that Romney can point to a small class that turned out kids who failed miserably at standardized tests doesn’t surprise me one bit. It also wouldn’t surprise me to learn that this study was funded by a conservative think tank with a vested interest in proving that no correlation exists between class size and academic achievement. The people who are plotting to end public education in this country are not stupid. They know exactly what they’re doing.

  13. Mr. Y
    Posted May 29, 2012 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    And, they’ve been laying the groundwork for years.

  14. dirtgrain
    Posted May 29, 2012 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

    They’ve been hacking away at teacher compensation, all the while demanding more and more of them. What motivational genius it all is. Too often, politicians have no idea what makes for good teaching.

  15. Posted May 29, 2012 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

    Did you hear that the EM of Muskegon fired all of the staff and said all schools will be charter next year?

    It’s an MEA website, and thus it is written from the MEA point of view, but still…this is bullshit.

  16. Posted May 29, 2012 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, Patti. I just noted it on the front page.

  17. Kit
    Posted June 1, 2012 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    Reduced class size helps mitigate a lack of parental involvement. Comparing the US to other cultures makes no sense – they have a completely different value system (IMHO better in some ways, less so in others.) Civic responsibility is generally held in higher regard and in many cases public transit functions on an honor system. They don’t tolerate misbehavior in schools and accountability is much greater. We’ve become a society of entitlement and buck-passing. Until we can institute a paradigm shift and restore dignity and authority to our educators the best solution is individualized attention for our students. This level of attention removes the veil of anonymity and begins to create a culture of accountability as the educators and students build relationships. If we put 10% of the emphasis on education that we put on sports in this country we would be in much better shape.

  18. Teacher Keith
    Posted June 1, 2012 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    Romney is partially correct ~ class size does not determine academic success or failure. The truth is that student/teacher relationships are a far greater determiner of whether a student achieves or falls behind. When a teacher can develop a meaningful (and appropriate) student/teacher relationship with a student ~ that is, when the teacher gets to know his/her students and the students develop trust in their teachers ~ the students will feel more comfortable asking questions, will be more inclined to approach teachers with academic situations, talk to teachers about personal problems and home life, and actually want to try to achieve.

    But I don’t think that’s what Romney was aiming at. He is, as usual, an out-of-touch elitist whose wealth has sheltered him from the difficulties most Americans face. Sometimes it’s better to ask questions than to make statements…

  19. Meta
    Posted April 3, 2013 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

    Oregon has the third largest class sizes in the nation, and they’re fighting back.

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