Get sick, get well
Hang around a ink well
Ring bell, hard to tell
If anything is goin' to sell
-- Bob Dylan

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Bloomberg: 62 in a class is OK... for other people's children

The mayor's daughters went to Spence, where class size hovers between  10 and 15.

“Double the class size with a better teacher is a good deal for students.”
-- Mayor Bloomberg
Mayor Bloomberg told an MIT crowd that if he were king, he would fire half the teachers and double class sizes. The mayor of Wall Street contends that larger class size is a no-brainer, that the research is "unambiguous." He can't understand all the fuss over his remarks, which he now claims were taken "out of context."

Michael Powell, writing in yesterday's NYT, says there's an “autumn of the patriarch” feel to Mayor Bloomberg these days. He paints a vivid picture of the devastation caused by his education policies, especially in the city's poorest neighborhoods.
Many schools, particularly those serving the poorest, remain fractured. The Daily News discovered that Grace Dodge High School in the Bronx had failed to provide 300 students with English teachers. At Taft High School in the Bronx, the dropout rate spiked to 70 percent from 25 percent in the four years before it closed in 2006.
There’s a "final oddity," writes Powell.
Among the so-called meritocratic elite, low teacher-to-child ratios are beloved. The mayor’s daughters went to Spence, where classes hover from 10 to 15. Trinity, Dalton, Riverdale, Horace Mann: All charge $35,000 or more per year, and classes rarely exceed 12 in the lower grades. These schools boast of teachers with advanced degrees. That’s true of Brooklyn Tech. Yet teachers at the latter feel like paper tossed into a receptacle.
The mayor is right in one sense. The research on class size, where it exists, is "unambiguous." The preponderance showing the benefits to elementary school students of smaller class size, regardless of the quality of the teacher. Every major study (see Class Size Matters which provides a great clearinghouse for class size research) shows that smaller is better. 

Teaching children is much more than delivering information in a lecture hall setting. If Bloomberg had ever taught he would know this. Ironically, he does know it but only when it comes to the schooling of his own kids. A comparison could easily be made with Chicago's own ownership society mayor, Rahm Emanuel, who claims there's unambiguous benefits of a longer school day with more seat time for the city's poorest children, but then sends his own kids to a private school with shorter school days and school year. 


  1. One of the most disturbing phenomena of these times is this cadre of billionaires and on occasion millionaires, whose children, presumably, all studied at super expensive private schools like the Spence School, making all sorts of visceral but entirely uninformed pronouncements on the state of education and how it ought to be reformed. As billionaires who are usually used to dictate indulging all of their demands and being capable of demanding, because they promise financial reward, they see education as some sort of service and they see teachers as their servants. So their answer to any problems involving education is never the parents, the nutritional content of the pupils' diets, the educational level of their parents, the consumer society, issues of funding and facilities, the environment in the home etc. it is always the teachers of whom they conceive as servants who can be hired and fired and they see the issue of pupil performance as they would see the work of the managers of their hedge funds (or whatever): if they can't achieve the results which they demand, then they should be fired.
    Although money does play a role in successful education, it is only one factor and not necessarily the decisive one. The people most primarily responsible for a child's education are their parents. If the parents do not take the lead in this endeavor by encouraging it. This would include reading to and with their children, encouraging some sort of intellectual curiosity toward the world, and a habit I learning from my mother as a child: When ever something interests me, I look it up. We used to have books like encyclopedias but now it is far easier: on the Internet.
    Illiterate parents can also play a role by encouraging and ascribing intrinsic value to education and being educated. The bottom line is, however, without parents there is no success in education.

  2. Alan Singer "has a post similar to yours on Huffington: What's Good for Mayor Bloomberg's Kids Is Good Enough for Ours."