California classrooms continue to grow

September 17, 2010 7:05:01 PM PDT
The 30 largest school districts in California have done away with the program to reduce class sizes for kids in kindergarten through third grade. This is according to a survey done by California Watch, a nonprofit independent investigative reporting group.

It is the end of the week and an Oakland first grade teacher is exhausted. This year, she has more students in the classroom.

Oakland schools are not the only ones increasing class sizes in kindergarten through third grade where class sizes were once set at 20 students for every teacher.

Martha Soliday helps with early reading. She says larger class sizes, now some with up to 30 kids, will have an impact on students.

"They are not getting as much attention from the teacher and kindergarten is a critical age to begin those early reading skills," Soliday said. "So with more children they are not going to get small group attention."

According to California Watch, the state has spent $23 billion over the last 14 years funding the small class program. And in a matter of two years, the program has crumbled in most school districts.

California Watch reporter Louis Freedberg poured over the data.

"We are making policy based on how much money there is, not whether it's good public policy, in this case whether it's good or bad for the children," he said.

For most districts the economic picture worsened when the stimulus money ran out and the state budget crisis deepened. Teachers were laid off.

Freedberg says these are challenging times for educators.

"So now you have a situation where teachers are under enormous pressure to have their kids do better on the battery of tests that kids get every year with more kids to handle in the classroom and often with fewer resources, intervention specialists, reading specialist, counselors, all of which are being cut," he said.

The principal of Lafayette Elementary School in Oakland agrees.

"They basically feel unsupported because there is no clear evidence that they are being prioritized they are here and giving their all to the student doesn't' seem to be appreciated," Karen Haynes said.

Many districts do not think they will go back to the magic 20 number anytime soon.


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