Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Contract for Excellence

This week the NYC Department of Education has been holding public hearings on their proposal of how to spend the extra Contracts for Excellence money that the state has alloted NYC Public Schools. This is an issue of vital importance to myself and my fellow students.

As a student, I firmly believe that more money from the Contracts For Excellence should be dedicated to reducing class size. This sentiment is echoed by many of my peers at the NYC Student Union. They each have their own stories about how they have been academically shortchanged by the City’s incredibly large classes. Additionally, lowering class sizes directly impacts the other possible spending choices such as Time on Task and Teacher Quality.

At one NYC Student Union meeting, a student noted that certain teachers did not even know their name. Sadly, this has become a cliche. It has been said that two of the most important factors in improving our schools are improving teacher quality and reducing class size. These factors go hand in hand. With smaller classes we will see a dramatic increase in teacher quality. I believe that that student’s teachers, who ignored them, would not have, had there been several fewer students in their class. Reducing class size is instrumental to improving teacher quality.

At many of the New York City Student Union’s meetings this year, the issue of student apathy as a cause for many of our schools’ problems was brought up. For a variety of reasons, many students do not care enough to actively pursue academic success or involve themselves in their school communities. This lack of engagement in our schools must be first remedied in the classroom. We need new and better teaching and learning methods. We need engaging curricula. We need more time on task. However, to explore these necessities, it is imperative that there be smaller classes city-wide. There is not way that a teacher can reasonably keep a class “on task” in a classroom of 34.

According to the DOE web site the citywide average class size is around 28 students. Unfortunately, I cannot recall having that few students in any of my classes. This is a problem and with the Contracts for Excellence money we can come closer to fixing it.

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