Thursday, April 17, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Days of small K-3 classes look done for in Calif.

SAN FRANCISCO — California embarked on an ambitious experiment in 1996 to improve its public schools by putting its youngest students in smaller classes. Nearly 17 years later, the goal of maintaining classrooms of no more than 20 pupils in the earliest grades has been all but discarded– a casualty of unproven results, dismal economic times and the sometimes-fleeting nature of education reform.

To save money on teacher salaries amid drastic cutbacks in state funding, many school districts throughout the state have enlarged their first-, second- and third-grade classes to an average of 30 children, the maximum allowed under a 1964 law, state finance officials and education experts said. Hundreds more have sought – and been granted – waivers authorizing them to push enrollment in individual kindergarten and primary grade classrooms to 35 and above.

“The more bodies you have in a room, I don’t care who it is, the harder it is for one person to conduct business,” said Monique Segura, a kindergarten teacher in Santa Barbara County’s Orcutt Union Elementary School District who has seen her classes grow from 20 pupils in fall of 2008 to 32 this year. “And that’s especially true when you are dealing with young children who are learning how to behave and how to conduct themselves in a classroom situation.”

Last week, Orcutt Union was among five school districts that received permission from the California State Board of Education to allow their classes to grow to 35 to 38 pupils in one case. Segura, president of the local teacher’s union in Orcutt, said her organization had no choice but to stay neutral on the district’s request. If the union had opposed it, the district faced $200,000 a year in penalties for exceeding the cap put in place almost a half-century ago.

“We are caught in a very difficult place,” she said.

Although Gov. Jerry Brown said this month that the worst of California’s education funding drought is over, due in large part to voter approval of his sales and income tax initiative, a return to classes as small as the ones a decade ago is not envisioned any time soon.

In his budget for next year, Brown has proposed a new method for calculating how districts are funded, both to provide more flexibility at the local level and to steer money toward schools with the greatest needs. When the revised formula is fully implemented in about seven years, the governor wants K-3 classes to meet a new maximum of 24 pupils for every teacher – except in districts where parents, teachers and school board members agree to go higher.

The state Department of Finance still is working with education leaders to figure out what benchmarks the 1,073 districts and charter schools that serve elementary school-age children need to meet until then to remain eligible for a portion of the $1.3 billion the state now spends a year to keep class sizes down.

“We left the era of class size reduction in California a few years ago, when our funding collapsed during the Great Recession,” said Bob Blattner, a public school consultant and lobbyist. “Now, we are trying, in a sense, to reinstitute a smaller class size philosophy, but dropping down to 20-to-1 is not something we are likely to see again.”

Some districts, like Los Angeles Unified, the state’s largest, and San Diego Unified, the second-largest, have avoided adding a lot of students to each K-3 class by scheduling unpaid furlough days that have resulted in fewer days of learning for all students. Others, such as San Bernardino City Unified School District, have instituted furloughs for everyone but teachers and bumped up classes to 33 pupils.

The effect of budget cuts on class sizes has not been limited to early grades. In 2010, the most recent year for which estimates were available, California had the nation’s highest overall student-teacher ratio, with an average of 24 students for every teacher compared to a national average of 16, according to the National Education Association.

The 24-to-1 ratio includes subject specialists and other educators without fulltime classroom assignments, so the reality on the ground is that many teachers have more than two dozen students, Stephen McMahon, chief business officer for the San Jose Unified School District.

San Jose Unified, the 25th largest district in California, started moving away from the 20-to-1 model during the 2004-05 school year after local voters rejected a tax that would have kept it going in 3rd grade. It abandoned the standard in the other early grades with the onset of the recession in 2008, when the state gave districts the option of still receiving 70 percent of their class size reduction money if their classrooms had 25 or more students.

“We run pretty close to 30 everywhere,” McMahon said. “I don’t think class size reduction is done, but what’s done is the idea if you lower class sizes across the board it will solve every problem.”

When California joined 15 other states with mandatory or voluntary class size limits in 1996, the objective behind offering financial incentives to keep rosters at 20 or below seemed obvious. If teachers had fewer children in their classrooms, they would be able to give students more individual attention and spot those at risk of falling behind.

The state created an incentive program that paid school districts $535 for every K-3 student who was in a class of 20 for half the day and $1,070 for each one who was in a class that small for the whole day.

Though popular with parents and teachers, the state’s massive investment – $6 billion in the program’s first five years – did not prove to be the academic achievement panacea its boosters, including then-Gov. Pete Wilson, had hoped. A series of state-commissioned studies found no clear correlation between class downsizing and academic achievement. In the years since, states have started looking at more cost-effective ways of promoting improvement, such as identifying strong and weak teachers.

“The issue isn’t whether smaller classes are better than larger classes. The issue is how you want to invest limited educational resources,” said Brookings Institution fellow Matthew Chingos, who has reviewed research on class size reduction efforts.

California State PTA president Carol Kocivar said she hopes the state does not abandon its commitment to smaller classes for young children who may benefit emotionally from personal attention. The governor’s plan to cap K-3 classes at 24 would be an improvement from where things stand now, but still a setback for parents and teachers who thought even 20 pupils to a class was pushing it, Kocivar said.

“Several decades ago, California was leader in serving our children, and now we are digging ourselves out of the bottom,” she said. “For a whole generation of kids, we have to dig a lot faster.”

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

Supervisor candidates square off at forum

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A1, 5 Comments | Gallery

 
Carli takes oath, now Vacaville’s 14th police chief

By Susan Winlow | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Huge jump in Solano median home price

By Brad Stanhope | From Page: A1, 3 Comments | Gallery

Donate a car, help build a house

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

 
Solano DA hosts workshop to fight human trafficking

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A3, 1 Comment | Gallery

Suisun water rates won’t rise this year

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A3

 
 
Fairfield town hall on crime delayed

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A4, 4 Comments

Railway museum offers wine-tasting rides

By Adrienne Harris | From Page: A4

 
 
Drugs topic of cardiac class

By Adrienne Harris | From Page: A4

Weather for April 17, 2014

By Daily Republic | From Page: B12

 
Fairfield police log: April 15, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

Suisun City police log: April 15, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
Fairfield police log: April 14, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

Suisun Police log: April 14, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
.

US / World

Armed robber was never told to report to prison

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
Body of California man who jumped into river found

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

Lost sea lion in California found mile from water

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

 
Seabird from Atlantic spotted on Alcatraz

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Ex-Bell city leader gets 12 years in prison

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

 
California delays decision on protecting gray wolf

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Court rules for environmentalists in water fight

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Governor calls special session on rainy day fund

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

Denver police eye 911 response time after killing

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10, 1 Comment

 
Man charged with marathon hoax is held on bail

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Geneva talks on Ukraine face steep hurdles

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Pro-Russian insurgents seize armored vehicles

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Ferry sinks off South Korea; 6 dead, 290 missing

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
NATO ups military presence amid Russian threat

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10, 1 Comment

.

Opinion

In support of Pam Bertani

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11, 6 Comments

 
Parenting demands responsibility

By Ruben Navarrette | From Page: A11, 1 Comment

 
Let’s stop Fairfield’s future thugs

By Kelvin Wade | From Page: A11, 6 Comments

Obamacare news you probably missed

By Martin Schram | From Page: A11, 2 Comments

 
Editorial Cartoons for April 17, 2014

By Kim Durbin | From Page: A11

.

Living

A lesson in household budgeting

By Chris Erskine | From Page: A2

 
Today in History for April 17, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

Community Calendar: April 17, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

 
Horoscopes for April 17, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A9

 
.

Entertainment

TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Daniel Radcliffe on why New York audiences rock

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Alicia Silverstone out with book ‘Kind Mama’

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Jenny McCarthy announces engagement on ‘The View’

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Ailing Malcolm Young taking break from AC/DC

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Disney Channel’s ‘Jessie’ breaks romantic ground

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

.

Sports

Vacaville’s Peralta to wrestle at San Francisco State

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B1

 
Angels beat A’s 5-4 on Iannetta’s HR in 12th

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

MEL, SCAC tangle in hoops all-star games

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B1

 
Sharks take goalie questions into rematch vs Kings

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Crawford’s 41 points leads Warriors over Nuggets

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

IndyCar driver Saavedra fined $10K

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Sandoval’s single lifts Giants past Dodgers, 2-1

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Officer: Sharper’s DNA found on 1 Arizona victim

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Jets sign former Titans RB Chris Johnson

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Spieth ready for more after Masters success

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Backup QB Matt Flynn returns to Packers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Atlanta lands MLS expansion team for 2017

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Bucks owner Herb Kohl reaches deal to sell team

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Sidney Rice agrees to terms with Seahawks

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Goodwin helps Suns to 104-99 win over Kings in finale

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
.

Business

Yellen: Fed stimulus still needed for job market

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
Some exempted from minimum wage, increased or not

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

Fed survey: Growth picks up across most of US

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Bank of America posts loss, hurt by legal charges

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

IBM posts lower 1Q earnings amid hardware slump

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Google’s 1Q earnings disappoint as ad prices slip

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

.

Obituaries

.

Comics

Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9