When Education Secretary Betsy DeVos claimed that students learn better in larger classes and President Trump seconded her words, their remarks renewed the debate about the issue (“Class Sizes Will Be the Biggest Ever’ Boasts President Trump,” National Education Policy Center, Apr. 1).
The irony, of course, is that DeVos sent her two sons to Grand Rapids Christian High School, which has an average class size of 24, and Trump’s son is enrolled in St. Andrews, which has a median class size of 15. Moreover, most politicians’ children have attended schools with equally small class sizes.
I don’t doubt that it’s possible to get a solid education in large classes. For example, Catholic schools are known for that. But they are outliers. Most young people learn more effectively when they are more than just a number to their teachers. That’s particularly the case with students from chaotic backgrounds who have never experienced a close relationship with an adult before.
During the 28 years that I taught English in the Los Angeles Unified School District, I rarely had a class with fewer than 33 students. Not only was it impossible to spend more than a minute or two grading their essays, but it was hard to get to know them individually. That’s why I question the assertion that larger classes mean better learning.
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