That is the how I interpret Senator Dan Patrick’s letter to me in response to my request to kill new legislation that would remove class size restrictions in Texas. In this open letter, I will try to share my constructive opinion about this politically-motivated legislative mistake.

Dear Senator Patrick,
For reference sake, I’ll include large segments of your letter to me:
“… As the Vice-Chair of the Senate Education Committee, your thoughts are important to me. I authored Senate Bill 300 to eliminate certain mandates on schools. One provision in this bill allows districts to create classes based on a 22-to-1 campus average. This will enable more students to remain in their established classes throughout the school year. The current class-size requirement applies to kindergarten through fourth grade classes. Class sizes at higher grade levels, fifth grade through twelfth grade, are not limited because local districts should decide the most effective class sizes for their community. State restrictions on class size are ineffective, costly, and disruptive to students’ lives and education. This piece of legislation came from numerous meetings with superintendents and teachers. A campus-wide average will allow districts to create the best educational setting for a child rather than the state.”

I would communicate my feelings to your extensive, professional classroom-based experience, but lacking that, I’ll just use small numbers for you.

Class Size Example

Class Size Example

This chart shows some 22 to 1 school averages that I assume your bill would allow. Size1 shows what typically happens today. We have lower numbers in kindergarten and very high numbers in 5th grade. Please spend 2 weeks in a kindergarten classroom with more than 18 students and then show me your successes there. Putting the rest of the classes to at least 22 gives the school the allowance for 30 5th graders for each teacher. You would probably be safer painting yourself blue in a Steelers locker room than spending a year with 30 10-11yr olds and meeting the No Child Left Untested demands.

As a fifth grade teacher for 12 years, I was always astounded by the Texas law that made clear that 10 year old students are not as important, yet fundamentally much more mature than 9 year olds. I never had a class with fewer than 26 students and for several years has 30-31 students. Again, I’d love to see the Vice-Chairman on Education in the Texas senate teach 28 10 yr olds with Gifted, academically-challenged, autistic, poor home life, attention deficit, and other student labels while being told to test more in order to increase their 92% scores that allow the school to get a higher rating. (I know, I could have added more. I was trying to keep it simple.)

State restrictions seemed to work fairly well in the K-4 classrooms, some even having a waiver to go to 24. How in good conscience can you suggest that restricting class size is ineffective and disruptive? Ineffective is having to know each of your 28 students’ academic needs and making individual plans for all of their various levels in all subject areas, including an increased presence of liberal arts and technology curriculum standards and over-testing each one…. all while selling the idea that they should value coming to school because it is important. Disruptive is having a larger audience for the one attention-seeking clown in the classroom to play to and distract.

Why did my school have 30 5th graders in 3 classrooms? Because the district couldn’t afford to pay for another teacher. I have yet to work in a school where the admin has been able to keep all 5th grade classes down to 24 students because there was some extra money that they could play with on salaries.

We already have to beg and fight for adequate staffing in some cases. Letting district legally raise the class size limits will only hurt elementary schools. We already have waivers built into the system. Why not help students by making K-5 have 22 to 1 ratios for EACH classroom and allow the larger classroom size waiver for those forward-thinking schools that really do want to have an over-crowded and ineffective class size setting for their community.

We can’t just change class size restrictions as easily as some people change their name because they don’t like the way it sounds. There is a REAL impact on teachers and school performance when our young children are forced to meet the educational demands of the government in crowded classrooms.

Show me one respectable teacher that thinks that students would be better off in a larger classroom and I’ll gladly shut up. Otherwise, please reconsider removing class size mandates in the tragic mistake called Senate Bill 300.