Clips Roundup: Class Sizes

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OPINION: Warehousing kids in our public schools
Eugene Weekly
“If you want to see the future of education, head to the nearby town of Lowell. Lowell’s elementary school has 20 to 30 kids per grade and, until this year, one teacher per grade. But over the summer, Lowell fired half its teachers, so now the remaining three are teaching two grades each. Each pair of classrooms is separated by a 12 ft. wide storeroom, with new ‘windows’ cut into both its walls. Teachers are supposed to lead one class while peering through the holes in the walls to keep an eye on the rest of their charges, two rooms away. The teacher-less room is staffed by an educational assistant — doubtless dedicated, but not certified, nor even required to have a college degree. The Lowell windows are probably illegal. Oregon law mandates a minimum number of instructional hours for each student. Since you can’t really teach by peeking through holes in the walls, Lowell may be violating state law, cheating its students of half the instruction time they’re entitled to.”

Learning with less: Fewer teachers times more students equals many changes
OPB
“School districts all over Oregon cut teachers. The David Douglas schools, in east Portland,  cut nearly 80 teaching positions, last spring. The cuts fell heaviest at David Douglas High – Oregon’s largest public high school. Both Angela Nurre and Lon Morast taught health at the high school, last year. Only Nurre still does. Lon Morast got a pink slip. Back in June, he was hoping to get work as a substitute. But even if he subbed every day, he’d have to pay for his health insurance out of pocket. He was worried for his family. Lon Morast: ‘My wife is pregnant, so she’s going to need me around the house even more, so it’s hard for me to pick up other jobs. But I’m going to do as much as I can.’ Angela Nurre fretted about her colleague, but also about the effect that his absence – and that of other teachers – would have at the high school. She was worried she would have too many kids in her classes.”

Amid major budget cuts, Salem-Keizer has fewer teachers to educate more students, all in a crowded (school) house
Statesman Journal
“When Seleste Liyanage walked into her son’s first-grade classroom at Richmond Elementary she couldn’t believe what she heard — the class had 40 students. ‘I nearly had a heart attack,’ she said. It turns out only 38 showed up but that made little difference to parents or the teacher who faced one of the most difficult weeks in her 12-year career, she said. Around the district, elementary class sizes swelled to 27 to 30 students this year due to budget cuts, which means three to six more students per class than last year. Richmond and Kalapuya elementaries saw spikes of 35 or more students in at least one class.”

Clackamas County education: Beginning of the school year and crowded classrooms
Oregonian
“School is back in full swing, Clackamas County, and we’ve got you covered. My colleagues and I visited school buildings across the county on Tuesday and Wednesday, and we are now inundated with photographs and stories of adorable students on the first day of school. We’ve also been reporting on some of the bigger issues, like crowded classrooms and a kindergarten enrollment boom. Take a look at some of the Clackamas County education stories from the past couple of days.”

Kindergarten enrollment spikes across Portland area creating class size increase

Oregonian
“For the first time in her career, Karen Southard’s kindergarten classroom rug won’t have enough room.  As she read ‘The Kissing Hand’ during kindergarten orientation Tuesday at View Acres Elementary in Milwaukie, students plopped down on several extra mats lying in front of the multicolored rug that is usually big enough for her entire class. Thirty-six students are expected to pour into the classroom on Thursday, an increase of 11 students from her biggest class last year. A kindergarten enrollment boom is catching educators by surprise in pockets across the Portland area, exacerbating already crowded classrooms and forcing districts to scramble and add extra classes – if they can afford them. Sherwood and Tigard-Tualatin school districts added sections at the last minute to keep kindergarten class size averages around 25. But in North Clackamas, classes with 30 or more kindergartners will become a reality.”

Crowded Portland-area classrooms force teachers to cope so students can learn
Oregonian
“With a level of glee equal to that of his third-grade students, Matt Odman bought posters and started decorating his classroom last week. The brand new teacher studied the third-grade curriculum, prepared lessons and attended a math training. ‘Mr. Odman’ graced a bulletin board in the back of his classroom at Quatama Elementary in Hillsboro. A few days later, Odman, 26, packed it all up and moved to sixth grade. Quatama Principal Janis Hill said if she hadn’t moved him, sixth-grade classes would have numbered 37.”

EDITORIAL: Public schooling in a time of fewer and fewer dollars
Oregonian
“The opening days of school carry a happy uncertainty that can only be described as hope: for friendships, for good teachers, for classes that make sense, for the thrill of athletic contests and engagement of club activities and the surge of accidental discoveries that spur growth and test character. The process only builds our next generation. But it comes for a price. And across Oregon, this week of school openings means school on a tighter budget. Program cuts this year were severe almost everywhere. Educators had to find ways to pare away and reschedule the day without bringing harm to the ineffable experience of going to school. There is no new normal — the phrase is glib. But we’ve arrived at a day in which education looks different in ways subtle and extreme, in which young Oregonians must bend to adjust and hold on to the belief they’re not being cheated.”

How do these cuts affect Oregon classes? Check out The Visual Classroom project.

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