Melissa VanArsdale: Students losing out


— The letter referred to in the story "Class-size debate murky" was meant to do a few things:

First, the letter was to demonstrate that more than just a few parents want small class size. Instead, it reflects that several parents and teachers have expressed and prefer small class size. Also, 76 percent of voters passed the half-cent sales tax in November 2008. And this tax was promoted in part on the basis of small class size, in addition to technology enhancements and capital improvements.

The Fund Board's Web site states that "since the Fund Board's inception, class size has been a top consideration for Steamboat Springs parents ..." and "... the benefits of small class size are evident district wide." The Fund Board's Web site further states that "If EFB gifts end, the pupil-teacher ratio would rise from 20 to 23 at the elementary level; from 17 to 27 in the middle school and from 18 to 28 in high school. Loss of teachers and larger class sizes on the secondary level would dramatically impact instructional decisions and could result in lost vocational, language, art and music programs."

However, how then with the passing of the half-cent sales tax can the Fund Board explain my third grader's class of 25 students? Or a middle school Spanish class of nearly 30 students? If the Fund Board's Web site is outdated, then these statements should have been removed prior to the November election. If the Fund Board still stands by these statements, then those on the Fund Board who are not in accord with such statements should step down from the board. In addition to the half-cent sales tax, the passing of the mill levy override also provides money beyond the district budget for teacher salaries. Therefore, smaller class size does not mean cutting teachers, teacher salaries or programs.

Second, the letter was written purposely without actual cap numbers to facilitate a continued open discussion in establishing a policy on ideal class sizes from elementary to high school. And the letter further states that this cap (or policy) would need to be flexible (similar to the Pilot's statement of "soft caps").

Third, it has been insinuated that support of small class size is greater than support for the need of qualified teachers. On the contrary, it is not a question of trading one for the other: Small class size and qualified teachers act in concert with each other. It is, therefore, a given that we expect (and have) qualified teachers. Most studies show that smaller classes boost learning in the early grades, kindergarten through third. And, although fewer studies have been done for the secondary grades, Princeton University economist Alan Krueger's study says smaller classes could help students in all grades. And he further notes that one way class-size reduction could pay off is by attracting and retaining qualified teachers.

In all, I recognize that ideal class sizes may vary from elementary to secondary schools. And that in some cases, especially in secondary schools, some subjects may be more conducive to having larger classes to bolster active discussion and healthy competition among students. But we cannot simply squelch the wishes of parents and teachers who want smaller classes in addition to qualified teachers. Nor can we simply be satisfied with the School Accountability Reports showing a percentage of students proficient and advanced in our district without being accountable for the percentage of students below proficiency (which ranges from 20 percent for elementary to 29 percent for high school). These are the children falling through the cracks. A policy needs to be concurred that takes into account all parties involved. It should be set with the utmost regard to the benefits of all students.

Melissa VanArsdale

Steamboat Springs


Chris Elliott 8 years, 1 month ago

Melissa, You may want to ask the principal at Soda Creek about the "floating teacher" It is my understanding that, rather than have four classes of third graders, she has chosen to "float" the fourth teacher between the classes. The total number of third grade kids is then divided by the four teachers to get the number below 20.


mavis 8 years, 1 month ago

Some questions about "floating" and "flooding" teachers- Whatever they may be called you might want to really look into some important facts brought up in this article-- Are these floating teachers put in place for ALL subjects?

How often are Paras put in positions they feel uncomfortable in to fit the equation to "keep class size down"

Do kids spend quality time with thier homeroom teacher or are they coming and going so fast and frequently they have intensive schedules adults can't keep track of?

IF the mill levy was promised for salaries-- is it being delivered?? ARe qualified teachers allowed to go to trainings or is the district suddenly so strapped for cash that most teachers have not been allowed to attend trainings for two years?? Even if the teacher pays for the training themselves- subs cost the district $$

I encourage you to ask some questions and once you start digging- you probably won't like the answer- but maybe the Fund Board will have to begin demonstrating some accountability


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