Volume 13, Issue 8
By Sherry Posnick-Goodwin
Economics teacher and Madera Unified Teachers Association member Mary Larsen talks about the difficulty of supporting all of her students in a crowded classroom.
The district: Madera Unified School District will have to cut $15.4 million next year after already cutting $9 million last year, says Madera Unified Teachers Association (MUTA) President Sue Thornton. Because of last year's cuts, classes are much more crowded this year at the high school level. Next year is likely to be worse. The board has voted to eliminate class size reduction in grades K-3 next year if MUTA and other district employees don't accept a 2.5 percent salary rollback, which Thornton describes as "blackmail." There has also been a discussion of cutting athletics and a counselor at each middle school.
Student James Castellanos, 18, Madera High School
My economics class is pretty crowded. My teacher gets frustrated sometimes. It's harder because teachers have to talk over the kids and it's hard to handle 38 kids and get your point across. In a smaller class, teachers can get their point across to students faster.
When you have students in a larger class, it's kind of guaranteed that they are going to talk. In smaller classes students listen to the teacher more. But in a larger class, when someone is disrupting, other students start to think it's OK and they start talking too. Even me sometimes.
In a bigger class it's kind of hard to learn. You have to wait longer to understand things and then when you finally get help, you're behind the others who already understand.
I want to become an entrepreneur. I want to own my own business before I'm 25. I want to go to college and be successful. Lots of my friends have dropped out. … The senior class is a lot smaller than my freshman class. I have been working since the age of 16. I work at Office Max.
I think of education as an investment. Who's going to be the future leaders and the CEOs? Isn't that us? Why don't they realize they have to invest in our education? It's not going to pay off right away; they have to think of us as being a long-term investment.
Student Kendrick Liu, 18, Madera High School
It's really loud in a crowded classroom. It's hard for the teacher to get everyone to quiet down. Discipline is harder to maintain. It's harder to get the teacher's attention and it's harder to learn. But I manage.
I think they should give more money to schools so that the average size classroom isn't overcrowded and hard to manage. That way students can learn and teachers don't have a hard time teaching.
Teacher Mary Larsen, economics, Madera High School, MUTA member
In a crowded classroom it's difficult to support all students — especially the quiet ones. All of the students deserve attention, but you can't make sure everyone is getting what they need. Being a special education teacher [in a mainstream classroom] helps me be aware that students have differences, but it doesn't mean I can get to everyone in such a large class.
I have seen a difference in the students coming into high school during the past decade, because they had only 20 students in kindergarten through third grade. It has made a big difference and it's so sad to think that now, after such progress, they may increase class size again in those grades.
Kids are not getting the support they need now. I think we are going to see the result of that in 10 years when we see kids out on the streets who can't get jobs. How are we — the community — going to pay for that?