I did my student teaching in a 4th grade class of 47 students on a half day schedule in a small portable room in Charter Oak School District.
Half of the kids came at 7 a.m. and went home early. Half came at 8:30 and went home late. My experienced and trusting master teacher (Mrs. Francisco) had me prepare exactly two lessons and then said, "I'll see you around Christmas," and she wasn't kidding. Oh, there were a few "Francisco sightings" occasionally, but nothing serious. Those hours that I had them all together in that small portable was a real test...of practically everything.
In the 90's the economy was just swell, and there appeared to be money for teachers' salaries, materials, technology and almost everything that was needed, yet I never had less than 30 students in any class.
When I retired from Ensign I was responsible for around 178 students every day.
There was that magic moment when Gray Davis recognized the value of teachers and the benefits of small classroom size, and California limited the class size in K-3 to 20 students, a situation which only lasted a few years.
The studies regarding the correlation between class size and student achievement have been mixed, as all studies seem to be, especially regarding education. Most studies have leaned toward the notion that class size reduction results in better students. The Tennessee STAR experiment found that "small classes (15-17) in kindergarten through third grade provide short and long term benefits for students, teachers and society at large ... poor, minority, and male students reap extra benefits in terms of improved test outcomes, school engagement and reduced grade retention and dropout rates."
To which I say "Duh!"
Any teacher will tell you that having fewer students in their class will result in gains, not only in test scores, but in other less tangible benefits: student self-confidence, student true understanding, student participation, student inclusiveness, and most importantly, student success in life at the time and later.
Many high school and intermediate teachers have told me that one of the great benefits of smaller classrooms is the ease of classroom management. In a class of 33-40 students, at least 10 of those students will try to disrupt the class almost every day no matter how experienced and adept the teacher is. As you can imagine, this takes valuable time from classroom activities and instruction. Then add to the mix, the individual issues of the students themselves which ALWAYS play a part of instruction : family struggles, poverty, abuse, special needs, learning disabilities and many more.
Teachers are expected to "differentiate" which means to craft their lessons to every child in their care..obviously an impossible task.
Imagine how the test scores would soar if classes were reduced to a reasonable number...let's say 20 students across the board for elementary school, intermediate school, and high school. Imagine how it would impact the individual student who would have a chance to believe in their own abilities.
So, why is it that administrators (including Newport-Mesa) have not recognized the irrefutable fact that having fewer kids = better scores and well educated students?