Class size is considered crucial


Your Opinions

Thoughts on issues relating to Howard County

July 17, 2005

Last week's issue: County Councilman Charles C. Feaga, a west county Republican, contends that Howard could solve its school-crowding problems by increasing class size by two students per classroom. That process collectively would equal two elementary schools, two middle schools and one high school. But school officials contend that studies show smaller class sizes result in a better education and a better chance to close the student-performance gap. Enlarging classes also would not work evenly, they say, because of geographic population distribution.

Two more students per room is a lot

For anyone who does not work in a school, two children more in a classroom seems like it would not make much of a difference. For those who work in a classroom, class size means everything.

First, let's look at the myth of a classroom with only 22 students. That is the goal of the school system but not necessarily what we have. Let's say you have 98 second-graders. With 22 in a class, that is 88 students in 4 classes. What do you do with the extra 10 students? You do not get another teacher so the administrators have to figure what to do. They may cut a teacher from another grade and add it to second. They may mix a class of second- and third-graders or most likely add the extra 10 students to the 4 classes making class size 24 or 25 to a class. Very few classes actually are lucky enough to have only 22 students.

Class size also affects the size of the schools. School safety is controlled by the number of students in a building. In Montgomery and Prince George's counties, their high schools have twice as many students as we do.

Their principals do not know who belongs in their building and who does not. When the Howard County school system wanted to increase the size of high schools, the principals begged not to do that. They knew that would decrease the quality of our schools. That price tag is too high.

Saving money and controlling costs are very important. Providing a quality school system is more important.

Also, today's classrooms are a very different environment than they were years ago. Many more children have special learning needs.

Disruptive children are more common in a classroom, as well. A teacher who wants to meet the needs of their students knows each and every student and what their strengths and weaknesses are. They create a plan for each child to help them achieve their greatest potential. That is what we want and what each student deserves. Yet, for every child added to the classroom there is less opportunity for a teacher to assist students individually.

We have to make many hard choices for our tax dollars. We cannot just throw money at the schools without asking for proof what they are doing is working. We need to see what is worth an investment and what is not. For anyone who spends time in the classroom with students, class size is one of the most important [considerations] for assuring our students the best-quality education we can provide. That is money spent well.

Donna Thewes


The writer has worked and volunteered in the Howard County public schools for 17 years.

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The Columbia Council voted Thursday night to abolish itself. The 10 people who served on the council will continue to serve as the Columbia Association's board of directors. Those who supported disbanding the council claim the move will clear up confusion caused by having two bodies when the council virtually has no power. Now that you - Columbia residents - are represented by only one body, are you any less confused? Do you care?


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