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Do the Benefits of Smaller Class Sizes Always Equal the Hype?

Education World – Joel Stice

“Overcrowded classrooms are one of the biggest workplace headaches for teachers and many education experts argue for the benefits of smaller class sizes. Both the gains and drawbacks to smaller class sizes are touched upon in a 2017 study that looks at the push for smaller classes in New York City’s public schools.”(more)

What Good Preschool Looks Like: Snapshots From 4 States

NPR Ed – Cory Turner

“A new report, out today, provides 186 pages of answers to one of the toughest questions in education: What does it take to get preschool right? Parents and politicians alike want to know…Today’s release from The Learning Policy Institute, “The Road to High-Quality Early Learning: Lessons from the States,” helps balance the preschool debate by highlighting a handful of states that appear to be getting pre-K right: Michigan, West Virginia, Washington and North Carolina. Here’s a quick primer on each program and a few reasons why the LPI thinks they’re working.”(more)

College Free, Connections Costly?

News Herald – Juliann Talkington


In the End of the University As We Know It, Nathan Harden asserts that access to a college-level education will be free and available to everyone on the planet; the bachelor’s degree will become increasingly irrelevant; the residential college experience will all but disappear; ten of thousands of professors will lose their jobs; and well-known and and respected universities like MIT, Stanford, and Harvard will enroll ten of millions of students.


Are Harden’s forecasts likely?


Technology has removed the geographic and time barriers to education. Students can listen to lectures real-time or save them for later viewing. Textbooks are available in electronic format. Groups can meet electronically for academic exchanges. Exams can be given electronically and will become accurate assessments of student proficiency as security issues are resolved.


Universities can and are extending their reach to students around the world at a fraction of the cost of what it takes to bring professors and students together on a physical college campus. A free college education is unlikely, but a very low cost college alternative is almost a certainty.


Technology has rendered many bachelor’s degrees useless. Rather than no bachelor’s degree, the degree will probably change form and name to note a broader, more well rounded education (advanced technical, humanities blend). The narrowing bachelor’s degree requirements will mean many students will opt for specialized, job specific, course-by-course certifications rather than a bachelor’s degree.


Technology has and will continue to change the classroom model. Professors can effectively lecture to millions of students at one time. This means only a small number of the best teaching professionals will be employed. In this new environment, prestige will be important. Top schools like MIT and Stanford will have millions of students and many lesser known schools will be forced to close.


Research at top universities will probably continue. The professors that had to endure teaching assignments to conduct cutting edge research will be able to spend all their time in the lab.


It is unlikely that the residential college experience will completely vanish. However, it will probably be limited to high profile universities and be embraced by a small segment of the population that is willing to pay a premium for contacts and networking.


With the radical changes coming to post secondary education, parents should think carefully about where their children attend college. In addition, parents may want to avoid prepaid college programs and allocate funds to high-quality primary and secondary education.


Classroom observers using new tools to make teachers better

The Seattle Times – Martin R. West

“Watching from a corner of the room, evaluator Elaine Jackson made a mental note: Amin had missed an opportunity for the kind of conversation that builds learning. Amin might have asked the children, for example, what the wind did to the trees or whether they had ever lost power at home. Jackson is part of a growing effort to solve a tough problem: how to accurately and fairly critique teaching in ways that helps teachers improve. The art of teaching has long been considered something of a black box — a matter of personal style, intuition and philosophy that couldn’t be defined, much less reliably measured. But now the lid is starting to come off. Trained observers like Jackson — armed with elaborate guides that describe what good teaching looks like and how to rate it — are changing the way teachers are evaluated, not only in preschool but in K-12 classrooms. These new, in-depth observations are replacing or supplementing the ways teachers have been judged in the past, most often with superficial visits by school principals. The goal is to make teacher evaluations more objective than a principal’s opinion and more useful for self-improvement than a ranking based on student test scores.”(more)

The class sizes debate is tired and asks the wrong questions

The Guardian – Peter Blatchford

“Class sizes have been in the news recently. On Thursday the Labour party pledged that if elected it would cap class sizes at 30 for pupils aged five to seven years. By contrast, last week the head of the OECD Program of International Student Assessment (Pisa) surveys, Andreas Schleicher, set out the seven big myths about top-performing school systems, with myth number four being that small classes raise standards. This can’t be right, he argues, because high-performing education systems like those in east Asia focus on better teachers, not class sizes.”(more)

Inslee Outlines Early Childhood Education Plans for Washington

Education News – Kristin Decarr

“Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has introduced a plan to upgrade education in the state, including working on the preschool program for poor children, creating a full day kindergarten program, and hiring 7,000 more teachers in an effort to reduce class sizes among the first three grade levels in all elementary schools.”(more)