CSC Opinion

May 2, 2017 Upcoming May 16th FCPS Budget public hearing to include 0.5 student across-the-board increase in core academic class sizes topic. A PETITION  to oppose this position was started. Citizen participation is encouraged.  Testify at the May 16, 2017 FCPS School Board public hearings on the FY18 proposed budget https://www.fcps.edu/school-board/citizen-participation.
CSC opposes the proposed 0.5 student across-the-board increase, which will cause more students to be assigned to classes with 30+ students. We urge the School Board and FCPS Staff:
  • Not to increase elementary, middle and high school class sizes by 0.5 students
  • To comply with FCPS Regulation 1302.1, which caps elementary class sizes at 29.
April 5, 2017   Update, Alert & Concern Over Increasing Class Sizes in 2018 FCPS Budget
At an FCPS School Board (SB) working meeting on the topic of budget, the issue of core academic class sizes and INCREASING them by .5 to 1.0 student per class was discussed. (View Feb 23 Budget Work Session transcript HERE – class size.) Only 4 SB members – Hough, Schultz, Wilson and Mclaughlin – clearly stated NO to increasing class sizes. CSC appreciates their earnest support to NOT raise class sizes.
Most parents and the community are unaware of the budget process. Most do not know their SB representatives’ opinions and how they would vote on this matter. Balancing the FCPS Budget “on the backs of the students and teachers” has become a repetitive, tired slogan used each budgeting cycle, just in time as the SB and the Supervisors begin their yearly battle over the budget. How many teachers have to leave FCPS? How many students can we cram into trailers? Where are the brave creative leaders to generate fair, sound solutions? Garza made a little progress. Garza is gone. Who will step up? When will this complex and ever-present matter become a priority?

 

Three important bills are in the 2017 Virginia General Assembly. CSC has worked with teachers, parents and lawmakers to produce 3 support flyers explaining the bills in detail and advocate for needed responsible change with class size issues:

Support HB1498 flyer– lower state class size caps

Support HB2173 flyer – science lab class size limits due for safety sake

Support HB2174 flyer – transparency on middle and high school class sizes.

SUPPORT HB1498 TO LOWER VA ELEMENTARY CLASS SIZE CAPS

Support HB1498 flyer is available here and explained below.

LOWER CLASS SIZE CAPS WILL:

  • Improve learning outcomes for children – research shows an optimal class size of 25 or fewer improves the quality of instruction, particularly in elementary grades K-6 (1-22).
  • Generate an 18% rate-of-return in student’s long-term economic achievement and lifetime incomes (1).
  • Improve instruction – 97% of teachers in a national survey said that reducing class size would be an effective way to improve instruction (21)
  • Keep quality teachers in the classroom

HIGHER CLASS SIZE CAPS CREATES MANY PROBLEMS:

  • Reduction in overall quality of instruction
  • Difficulty with classroom management, with more focus on discipline and less on instructional time
  • Increase in time required to complete tasks
  • Difficulty in teaching, reinforcing work habits, and supporting critical executive-functioning skills
  • Elimination of critical learning activities – there just isn’t time for 30 kids to give oral presentations, participate in labs, etc.
  • Reduction in students’ ability to focus on tasks
  • Creation of safety hazards due to inadequate space-per-student or inadequate supervision
  • Large classes are one of the TOP 3 reasons teachers leave the teaching profession (22)
  • Reduction in teacher feedback and timely grading
  • Dramatic reduction in teachers’ ability to implement Level IV instructional strategies requiring small-group interaction and student participation

INVEST IN VIRGINIA’S FUTURE BY SUPPORTING HB 1498

HB1498 will have a direct, measurable and positive impact in the classroom and lead to improved long-term economic achievement for all Virginia’s students in public elementary schools.

 

Grade Current Virginia Class Size Caps  (26) HB 1498 proposed Class Size Caps (27)
Grade K 29 28
Grades 1-3 30 28
Grades 4-6 35 29
Middle Schools n/a n/a
High Schools n/a n/a

 Sources

  1. Schanzenbach, Diane. “Does Class Size Matter?”  National Education Policy Center.  Northwestern University.  February 2014. http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/does-class-size-matter
  1. Chetty, R., Friedman, J.N., Hilger, N., Saez, E., Schanzenbach, D.W., & Yagan D. (2011). “How Does Your Kindergarten Classroom Affect Your Earnings? Evidence from Project STAR.” Quarterly Journal of Economics, 126 (4), 1593-1660.
  1. Word, E., Johnston, J., Bain, H.P., et al. (1990). “Student/Teacher Achievement Ratio (STAR): Tennessee’s K-3 Class size study.  Final Summary Report 1985-1990.” Nashville: Tennessee State Department of Education.
  1. Krueger, A.B., & Whitmore, D. (2001). “The Effect of Attending a Small Class in the Early Grades on College Test-taking and Middle School Test Results: Evidence from Project STAR.” Economic Journal, 111, 1-28.
  1. Krueger, A.B., & Whitmore, D. (2002). “Would Smaller Classes Help Close the Black-White Achievement Gap?” In J.Chubb & T. Loveless (Eds.), Bridging the Achievement Gap (11-46). Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press.
  1. Dynarski, S., Hyman, J., & Schanzenbach, D.W. (2013). “Experimental Evidence on the Effect of Childhood Investments on Postsecondary Attainment and Degree Completion.” Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 32(4), 692-717.
  1. Finn, J., Gerber, S., & Boyd-Zaharias, J. (2005). “Small Classes in the Early Grades, Academic Achievement, and Graduating from High School.” Journal of Educational Psychology, 97(2), 214-223.
  1. Molnar, A., Smith, P., Zahorik, J., Palmer, A., Halbach, A., & Ehrle, K. (1999). “Evaluating the SAGE Program: A Pilot Program in Targeted Pupil-Teacher Reduction in Wisconsin.” Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 21(2), 165-77.
  1. Fredriksson, P., Öckert, B., & Oosterbeek, H. (2013). “Long-Term Effects of Class Size.” The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 128(1), 249-285.
  1. Krueger, A.B. (2003). “Economic Considerations and Class Size.” Economic Journal, 113(485), F34-F63.
  1. Graue, E., Hatch, K., Rao, K., & Oen, D. (2007). “The Wisdom of Class Size Reduction.” American Educational Research Journal, 44(3), 670-700.
  1. Glass, G.V., & Smith, M.L. (1979). “Meta-Analysis of Research on Class Size and Achievement.” Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 1(1), 2-16.
  1. Boozer, M., & Rouse, C. (2001). “Intraschool Variation in Class Size: Patterns and Implications.” Journal of Urban Economics, 50(1), 163-189.
  1. Mosteller, Frederick. Summer/Fall 1995.  “The Tennessee Study of Class Size in the Early School Grades.”  Critical Issues for Children and Youths.  Vol 5. No. 2.
  1. Finn, Jeremy D. “Class-Size Reduction in Grades K-3” School Reform Proposals: The Research Evidence, January 1, 2002, Education Policy Studies Laboratory (EPSL) at Arizona State University.  Chapter 2.
  1. Mathis, William J. “Research-Based Options for Education Policymaking”, National Education Policy Center, August 23, 2016.
  1. Average class size in public primary schools, middle schools, high schools, and schools with combined grades, by classroom type and state: 2011–12, Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS), National Center for Education Statistics. https://nces.ed.gov/surveys/sass/tables/sass1112_2013314_t1s_007.asp
  1. Fairfax County Public Schools Elementary Class Size Averages, Oct 31, 2015. https://www.fcps.edu/sites/default/files/media/pdf/ElmClassSizeAvg2015.pdf
  1. Ready, D. D. & Lee, V. E. “Optimal Context Size in Elementary Schools: Disentangling the Effects of Class Size and School Size.” Brookings Papers on Education Policy1 (2006): 99-135. Project MUSE. Web. 25 Aug. 2016. https://muse.jhu.edu/article/214681
  1. Virginia Journal of Education, February 2016, VEA. http://www.veanea.org/home/2594.htm; https://www.veanea.org/assets/document/Three_March_3rd_rallies.pdf
  1. Public Agenda, “Lessons Learned, Issue No. 3: New Teachers Talk About Their Jobs, Challenges and Long-Range Plans,” May 26, 2008, as referenced by Class Size Matters, http://www.classsizematters.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/CSR-national-fact-sheet.pdf
  1. Fairfax County Public Schools, Workforce Compensation Survey 2014-15. http://www.fcpswcs.org/results/report/90/53710.
  1. MacNeill, Arianna. “Beverly class sizes compare to neighboring districts.” The Salem News, June 28, 2016. http://www.salemnews.com/news/local_news/beverly-class-sizes-compare-to-neighboring-districts/article_8e730bcf-f2ba-5e27-ac2e-8e053b64f04f.html
  1. Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. School and District Profiles. 2014-15 Class Size by Gender and Selected Population Data Report (DISTRICT). http://profiles.doe.mass.edu/state_report/classsizebygenderpopulation.aspx
  1. Jones, Colin A. “The Right Size for Learning: Class Sizes in Massachusetts.,” April 27, 2015, Mass. Budget and Policy Center. http://massbudget.org/report_window.php?loc=The%20Right%20Size%20for%20Learning.html
  1. Code of Virginia, Chapter 13.2, Standards of Quality. 22.1-253.13:2. Standard 2. Instructional, administrative, and support personnel. http://law.lis.virginia.gov/vacode/title22.1/chapter13.2/section22.1-253.13:2/

27. HB 1498, as proposed by Delegate Jim LeMunyon, December 2016; http://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?171+ful+HB1498+hil

CSC Support for HB1498 flyer is available.

_____________________________________________________________________

Meals tax was rejected by voters.

Class Size Counts Supports Fairfax County’s Proposed 4-percent Meals Tax

September 26, 2016: After reviewing the County’s proposed 4-percent meals tax, the Class Size Counts board voted to support the November 8th referendum, because it would be better to raise $100 million through a tax on prepared foods than through further increases to County property taxes.

The proposed tax on prepared foods is estimated to raise about $100 million per year.  It would only apply to sales in areas of Fairfax County that do not already have their own meals taxes.  About 28 percent of meals tax revenues would be paid by people who do not live in Fairfax County.

If the meals tax passes, the County’s annual transfer of funds to Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS), which normally exceeds $1.7 billion, will include 70% of meals tax proceeds.  Presumably, Supervisors take these meals tax revenues into account in determining how to allocate the County’s property tax and other revenues.  However, the meals tax would diversify the sources of County funds.

Voters should realize that in reality, their choice is between additional property taxes and a meals tax.  Given this choice, CSC believes that the meals tax would be the better option, and hopes that FCPS will allocate some of the County’s transfer in FY 2018 to reduce class sizes.


Analysis of Virginia House Bill 1377 presented January 2016

NOTE: Thank you to Delegates Jim LeMunyon and Mark Kean for their support with this effort. It has been signed and accepted by the Governor. This Analysis History is still relevant as ongoing class size discussions and legislation efforts continue in Richmond.
 Jim LeMunyon and Mark Keam are the chief patron and chief co-patron of HB 1377.
HB 1377 – FOUR NEW CLASS SIZE CAPS
 1.  Science Lab Classes
HB 1377 adds a new cap on science lab classes at 24 students.  Currently, Virginia has no cap on any middle or high school class.  Page 29 of the FY 2016 WABE Guide states that the average FCPS middle school class size is 24.6 and the average high school class size is 25.8 students. NOTE: no longer posted on FCPS website
FCPS principals have routinely assigned 28+ students to some science lab classes, contrary to safety guidelines from national science associations.  Dr. Garza has said that some FCPS principals put over 24 kids in science classes because they have other priorities.  Note, by the way, that relatively few principals started as science teachers.  With a state science class size cap, FCPS principals won’t be able to do this in the future.
 2.  Middle and High School English Classes
HB 1377 caps middle and high school English classes at 30 students.  Virginia already requires an average middle and high school English class size of 24 students for each school district.  However, FCPS staffing formulas and principal priorities have resulted in some FCPS students being assigned to very large English classes, with 30+ students.  When some FCPS English classes have 20 to 25 students, a cap of 30 is not asking for much.  However, it will be much appreciated by students and teachers who otherwise would have English classes with over 30 students.
 3.  Fourth through Sixth Grade Classes
HB 1377 reduces the existing state cap on 4th through 6th grade elementary school class sizes from 35 to 30 students.  Thanks to guidance that Dave Foster extracted from the state Department of Education when he was the president of the state Board of Education, FCPS elementary school principals were stopped from continuing to assign over 35 kids to math or other subject classes while claiming compliance because they put “only” 35 kids in homeroom.
This year report, 2015, the average class size in FCPS for all elementary school classes is 22.2, and the average for grades 4 through 6 is 23.1.
Given those FCPS class size averages, a cap of 30 (rather than 35) for fourth through sixth grade students is not asking for much.
4.  First through Third Grade Classes
HB 1377 reduces by one student the existing Virginia caps on first through third grade classes from 30 to 29.   These caps are well above the 22.1 average for FCPS KG classes, or the 21.4 average for FCPS 1st through 3rd grade classes this year.
HB 1377 DISCLOSURE OF MIDDLE AND HIGH SCHOOL CLASS SIZES
Virginia requires all school districts to publish average class size data for every elementary school.  HB 1377 doesn’t require disclosure of similar data for middle and high schools.  However, schools must notify parents if their children’s classes exceed state caps, and explain how the school plans to fix that problem.

FCPS Release of Enrollment Numbers for FY15/FY16:    Don’t Be Fooled

Fairfax County Public Schools released their new school year enrollment numbers for the FY15/FY16 school year and the actual enrollment was overestimated by 2,115 students. This means that FCPS overestimated their budget by roughly $30 million dollars – and hired about 85-100 “extra” teachers for schools where projections were high.

What will happen next year?  With a strong manager like Dr. Garza at the helm, don’t expect projections to be so inflated next year, because otherwise the School Board will completely lose credibility with the Board of Supervisors.

More to the point, though, is that all these extra teaching positions won’t be available to temporarily “fix” class sizes next year.  We’re hearing from parents at plenty of schools that their kids’ class sizes this year were more reasonable.  They don’t realize that this is an election year shell game.

Visit the class size endorsements to see which candidates understand that the shell game is not in the best interest of our children. NOTE: School Board endorsement data no longer is posted however can be released if interested parties request.

October 15, 2015

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Publication of FCPS Regulation 1302 – July 28, 2015
On July 28, 2015, FCPS quietly published Regulation 1302, which establishes new elementary class size standards and FCPS responses, including – if all else fails – the allocation of an additional aide or teacher position from the countywide staffing reserve to an elementary school with one or more large classes.
FCPS Regulation 1302 applies to classes and instructional groupings for language arts, math, science and social studies.  It was adopted after Dr. Garza proposed and the School Board agreed to add $3.1 million in recurring funds and $0.8 million in one-time money to the FCPS staffing reserve for the 2015-2016 school year.  Under FCPS Regulation 1302, FCPS staffing reserve positions – perhaps including those not funded by the $3.9 million – will be allocated to schools whose principals comply with section III A of the regulation, which requires them to:
  • Evaluate and adjust the principal’s proposed classroom teacher position trades, resource trades and uses of grant proceeds that increase class sizes;
  • Consider creating multi-age or combination classes
  • Consider using school funds or region office funds to lower class size.
In addition, Section III B of Regulation 1302 requires the FCPS HR Department and region assistant superintendents to “thoroughly examine” six factors in allocating staffing reserve positions.
  • Current use of school resources.
  • Current trades (including trades of positions and of instructional funds).
  • The number of students at each grade level.
  • The use of multi-age or combination classes within the school.
  • Available space in the building.
  • Time of year.
Comment:  These six factors consider the “number of students” but not the size of the classes in each grade.  This provision could allow principals to create a mix of tiny and large classes to obtain more teachers or aides.  Class Size Counts survey responses from incumbent School Board members suggest that this is the intended impact, because the incumbents generally oppose any prohibition on the allocation of staffing reserve positions to schools with average general education class sizes under 23 students.
Comment:  The FCPS facilities definition of “program capacity” incorporates the disparate class sizes generated by the FCPS needs-based staffing formula.   Under this Regulation 1302, therefore, “available space in the building” presumably incorporates the assumption that some schools should only have 18 students in the same sized rooms that hold 30 students in other schools.
The new FCPS regulation establishes both hard class size caps that are very similar to the existing Virginia state law caps and somewhat lower “standard” class sizes that trigger additional administrative scrutiny and the potential assignment of an aide, or, less often, a teacher from the FCPS staffing reserve.
Regulation 1302 imposes hard class size caps of 28 students for Kindergarten classes (which have a teacher plus an aide), 30 students for grades 1 through 3, and 35 students for grades 4 through 6.  These FCPS class size caps are the same as Virginia’s class size caps for 1st through 6th grade except that all special education students are included in counting the number of students for the FCPS class size caps.  When classes exceed FCPS caps, principals “should” consider the actions listed in section III of the regulation, described above, to reduce class sizes.  “If these actions are deemed insufficient, a teacher should be allocated from the staffing reserve” and “students should be reassigned to balance class sizes to 27 or fewer.”
In addition, the FCPS regulation establishes a class size “standard” for grades 1 through 6, which trigger additional scrutiny, where principals “should” consider using one of the strategies listed in section III (above) to reduce those class sizes.  If “these actions are deemed insufficient,” the school might be allocated an aide or – less often – an extra teacher from the staffing reserve.
For 1st through 3rd grade classes that exceed 27 students, principals “should” try to reduce class sizes using the methods listed in section III of the regulation (see above).  If “these actions are deemed insufficient, then an instructional assistant should be allocated from the staffing reserve to support classes at that grade level.  If the number of students in classes above 27 totals 4 or more, a teacher should be added instead of an instructional assistant; students should be reassigned to balance class sizes to 27 or fewer.”
The same approach is used when 4th through 6th grade classes reach 31 students.  Principals “should” consider using their authority and existing resources under section III, above, to reduce those 4th through 6th grade class sizes.  They should ask the region office for its funds to reduce class sizes.  And if those approaches “are deemed insufficient,” FCPS will allocate an extra aide from the countywide staffing reserve to “support classes at that grade level.”  If the number of students in classes above 30 totals 6 or more, “a teacher should be added instead of an instructional assistant” and “students should be reassigned to balance class sizes to 30 or fewer.”
Comment:  The “deemed insufficient” standard does not indicate who makes this determination.  The range of potential decision-makers include the School Board member for that district, the Superintendent, the Deputy Superintendent, the HR Assistant Superintendent, the Region Assistant Superintendent (and his executive principals) who supervises the principal of the school, and others.
Comment:  The “deemed insufficient” standard fails to indicate whether one school might be given additional teachers when its third grade classes exceed 28 students, while another school might not receive an additional teacher unless their third grade classes exceed 31 students.
Regulation 1302 also incorporates some of the previously-discussed rules that Dr. Garza announced to ensure that schools did not get to keep extra teachers assigned based on inaccurate student enrollment projections;  excess positions will be taken from those schools based on actual enrollment through the 10th instructional day in the first grading period.
Comment:  Dr. Garza should be commended for a series of actions she has taken to reduce the benefits to schools, School Board members, and other staff from projecting unrealistically high student enrollment at some schools, which are offset by projections of unrealistically low student enrollment at other schools.  In the past, FCPS schools were allowed to keep the extra teachers, aides and other staff assigned based on projections that exceeded their actual enrollment.
These guidelines are only “applicable until the end of the second grading period.”
Comment:  Class Size Counts’ analysis of student enrollment data shows that very few schools have significant increases in the number of students after the middle of the school year.

 

One thought on “CSC Opinion

  1. April 5, 2017 – Many parents are drinking the koolaid of selected school board members who say “there is not enough funding for the schools, therefore, we are forced to increase class size.” WRONG. This is false and misleading. EVERY budget is based on priorities and these particular members do NOT want to make reducing class size for overcrowded schools a PRIORITY. Why not institute a class size MINIMUM? This will provide the necessary funding to address the ridiculously crowded classes in FCPS.

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