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Jul 12

Struggling Readers Need Small Classes

By Dr. Gary G. Brannigan and Dr. Howard Margolis Special Education Articles Add comments
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Being in a small class, with a quality teacher, positively and profoundly effects children:

Most of the research done in the last 30 years [shows] … that small classes, especially in the primary grades, boost student achievement and that the benefits last through later grades when students are in ordinary size classrooms…. If we really want all the excellent teachers policymakers, politicians, and pundits are calling for, we have to be willing to provide the school supports that are necessary. One of those supports is reasonable class sizes that allow teachers to do their job to the best of their ability (Joanne Yatvin, past president of the National Council of Teachers of English).The Institute of Education Sciences, the research arm of the United States Department of Education has concluded that class size reduction is one of only four, evidence-based reforms that have been proven to increase student achievement through rigorous, randomized experiments — the ‘gold standard’ of research. (The other three reforms are one-on-one tutoring by qualified tutors for at-risk readers in grades first through third; life-skills training for junior high students, and instruction for early readers in phonics)…. A recent re-evaluation of the STAR experiment in Tennessee revealed that students who were in smaller classes in kindergarten had higher earnings in adulthood, as well as a greater likelihood of attending college and having a 410K retirement plan. In fact, according to this study, the only two ‘observable’ classroom factors that led to better outcomes were being placed in a small class and having an experienced teacher (Leonie Haimson, Executive Director, Class Size Matters).

Thus, if your child is at risk for reading disabilities or struggles with reading disabilities, join a group that advocates for small classes. Ignore the political slogans and false, self-serving statements that class size doesn’t matter: it does. There’s no substitute for the combination of small classes and quality teachers who get the support they need.

A warning. Nationwide, class sizes will not get smaller unless Congress and state legislatures pass and implement (1) laws and policies that create millions of well-paying jobs that generate taxes sufficient to support quality education; (2) equitable tax policies devoid of the biased, egregious loopholes that now dominate tax laws and policies. None of this is will happen unless parents and other citizens persistently and assertively advocate for the needs of children and other marginalized groups with little financial clout.

This column was originally published by Gary G. Brannigan, Ph.D. & Howard Margolis, Ed.D. in www.reading2008.com/blog . They also coauthored Reading Disabilities: Beating The Odds, a book to help parents identify reading difficulties, understand special education laws, work with schools, and, if necessary, challenge them to get their children needed services. It was listed as one of the three best books about education in 2010 by Psychology Today, and is available at  www.amazon.com  & www.reading2008.com . Also look for their forthcoming book, Simple Ways To Maximize Your Child’s Potential, due out in mid 2011.

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One Response to “Struggling Readers Need Small Classes”

  1. I completely agree that a smaller group is essential in teaching struggling reading learners.

    Many politicians DO NOT agree. They believe that class size is not important and does not influence learning at all. They are wrong. They are not teachers. They have no idea…

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