Friday, August 26, 2011

New school year, another 12,000 overcrowded classes

As we get ready to return to school, much attention has been focused on the "teach only" campaign of BC teachers.

But as far as students are concerned, more significant will be the more than 12,000 oversize classes that we can expect, give the government's refusal to reinstate $275 million in lost funding. This funding was cut in 2002 when the BC government stripped teacher collective agreements of limitations on class sizes and class composition (the number of students in each class with special needs designations). (See class size data here:

Even after the teachers strike in 2005 and the introduction of some limitations in the School Act, the government has failed to meet it's own stated limits.

Year after year, since 2005, the number of classes exceeding the School Act limits has grown. Last year it was over 12,000 across BC.

This means there are 12,000 classes with either more than 30 students or with more than 3 students who require an Individual Education Plan (or both).

Talk to any teacher who has been assigned an overcrowded class and you will begin to understand the impact on student learning.

Here is the composition of just one Victoria class that was outside the limits a few years ago:

"My class of 29 students included:
Five children with standard IEP’s (Individual Education Plans). Two children had LD (learning disability) designations. One student had a PDD-NOS (pervasive development disorder - not otherwise specified) designation including neuro-developmental difficulties and immaturities, MID (mild intellectual disability), autistic type behaviours and had had an IBI (intensive behaviour intervention) designation in the past. Another student had been diagnosed with PDCH (physical disability/chronic health), Aspergers, Pervasive Developmental Disorder. The fifth designated child had autism, Tourettes, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and LD. Four additional students had “In-school” IEP’s. These included one student who was two years below grade level, was on a modified program for language arts and mathematics and was waitlisted for an Ed-Psych assessment. Another student had been referred for an Ed-Psych assessment and was barely functioning in the class. He was living in a foster home and was seriously “at risk”. A third student “minimally met” in all areas of the curriculum, was easily distracted and had difficulty beginning and completing tasks. The fourth student had received occupational therapy and instruction from the Learning Disabilities Association and was dysgraphic. This same student was diagnosed with autism the following year. An additional two students had serious emotional concerns."

This teacher was rightly concerned about his ability to meet every student's learning needs. There are only so many hours in the day and one teacher simply cannot meet such diverse needs effectively in the time available.

When teachers begin their "teach only" action, they will be spending more time with their students, and less with Administrators. More at IEP meetings, and less at staff meetings. More planning and assessing and less doing formal reports.

The great tragedy this fall is that the BC government has failed to listen to teachers and restore the funding that has been stolen from our classrooms.

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