What Can Parents Do?

file8851249322427Is your child in a large class? Is that child coping? Bored? Struggling? Eager to get to school each day? Is your teacher frustrated? Coping? Overwhelmed? Hesitating to speak up? Is teacher turnover high? Are the “good” ones leaving your school for better environments?

Gain understanding. Get answers. Find compromises. Get creative. Rally your fellow parents, teachers and officials to work TOGETHER for class-size solutions with regards to resources and policy at all levels. Working with your child’s teacher, principal, PTA, PTO and expanding from the grassroots up to and through the local officials and state officials that have the power to make laws with enforcement regulations and standards are comprehensive ways to bring change and fairness to our school system.

See grassroots guidelines and advice below this contact reference. Use CSC’s experience to shorten your learning curve and avoid the common roadblocks.

Anecdotes on Class Sizes in the FCPS system: A CSC Anecdotes report from parents and teachers, their realities and perspective with regard to large class sizes over the past 4 years.

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:

CSC for 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.

Local and state officials contact information is provided:

Fairfax County Delegation to the Virginia General Assembly[i]

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors[ii]

Fairfax County School Board[iii]

[i]2017 Fairfax County Delegation to the VA General Assembly 

Senator Adam Ebbin, 30th District, district30@senate.virginia.gov

Senator Barbara Favola, 31st District, district31@senate.virginia.gov

Senator Janet Howell, 32nd District, mailto:district32@senate.virginia.gov

Senator Jennifer Wexton, 33rd District, district33@senate.virginia.gov

Senator Chap Peterson, 34th District, district34@senate.virginia.gov

Delegate Kathleen Murphy, 34th District, DelKMurphy@house.virginia.gov

Senator Richard Saslaw, 35th District, district35@senate.virginia.gov

Delegate Mark Keam, 35th District, DelMKeam@house.virginia.gov

Senator Scott Surovell, 36th District, district36@senate.virginia.gov

Delegate Kenneth Plum, 36th District, DelKPlum@house.virginia.gov

Senator David Marsden, 37th District, district37@senate.virginia.gov

Delegate David Bulova, 37th District, DelDBulova@house.virginia.gov

Delegate Kaye Kory, 38th District, DelKKory@house.virginia.gov

Delegate Vivian Watts, 39th District, DelVWatts@house.virginia.gov

Senator George Barker, 39th District, district39@senate.virginia.gov

Delegate Timothy Hugo, 40th District, DelTHugo@house.virginia.gov

Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn, 41st District, DelEFiller-Corn@house.virginia.gov

Delegate David Albo, 42nd District,  DelDAlbo@house.virginia.gov

Delegate Mark Sickles, 43rd District, DelMSickles@house.virginia.gov

Delegate Paul Krizek, 44th District, DelPKrizek@house.virginia.gov

Delegate Mark Levine, 45th District, DelMLevine@house.virginia.gov

Delegate Richard Sullivan, Jr., 48th District, DelRSullivan@house.virginia.gov

Delegate Alfonso Lopez, 49th District, DelALopez@house.virginia.gov

Delegate Marcus Simon, 53rd District, DelMSimon@house.virginia.gov

Delegate Jim LeMunyon, 67th District, DelJLeMunyon@house.virginia.gov

Delegate Jennifer Boysko, 86th District, DelJBoysko@house.virginia.gov

Other Virginia State Legislators info: Senate Education and Health Committee Members

(Sub-Committee: Public Education Members are identified with an asterisk [*]: Carrico (Chairman).

Chairman/Senator Stephen Newman, email: district23@senate.virginia.gov

Senator Louise Lucas, email: district18@senate.virginia.gov

Senator Janet Howell,* email: district32@senate.virginia.gov

Senator Chap Petersen, email: district34@senate.virginia.gov

Senator Mamie Locke, email: district02@senate.virginia.gov

Senator George Barker, email: district39@senate.virginia.gov

Senator Richard Black, email: district13@senate.virginia.gov

Senator Charles Carrico,* email: district40@senate.virginia.gov

Senator Thomas Garrett,*  email: district22@senate.virginia.gov

Senator John Cosgrove, Jr., email: district14@senate.virginia.gov

Senator Lynwood Lewis, Jr., email: district06@senate.virginia.gov

Senator Siobhan Dunnavant,* email: district12@senate.virginia.gov

Senator Amanda Chase, email: district11@senate.virginia.gov

Senator David Sutterlein, email: district19@senate.virginia.gov

House Education Committee Members

(Sub-Committee: Elementary & Secondary Education members are identified with an asterisk [*], Chairman Bell).

(Appropriations Sub-Committee: Elementary & Secondary Education members are identified with [^] Massie (Chairman), Cox, Landes, Greason, Knight, McQuinn, Lindsey).

(Sub-Committee: Education Innovation members are identified with [+], Chairman Greason).

Del. Steven Landes (Chairman),*email: DelSLandes@house.virginia.gov

Del. Brenda Pogge (Vice Chair),* email: DelBPogge@house.virginia.gov

Del. Scott Lingamfelter,* ^ email: DelSLingamfelter@house.virginia.gov

Del. Mark Cole,* DelMCole@house.virginia.gov

Del. James Massie, ^ email: DelJMassie@house.virginia.gov

Del. Tag Greason,+^ email: DelTGreason@house.virginia.gov

Del. Bell, Richard P.*+ email: DelDBell@house.virginia.gov

Del. Jim LeMunyon,*+ email: DelJLeMunyon@house.virginia.gov

Del. Roxan Robinson,+ email: delrrobinson@house.virginia.gov

Del. Joseph Yost,  email: DelJYost@house.virginia.gov

Del. David Yancey,+  email: DelDYancey@house.virginia.gov

Del. Mark Dudenhefer,,+ email: DelMDudenhefer@house.virginia.gov

Del. Glenn Davis, email: DelGDavis@house.virginia.gov
Del. James Leftwich,+ email: DelJLeftwich@house.virginia.gov

Del. Dave LaRock,* email: DelDLaRock@house.virginia.gov

Del. Jenniffer McClellan, *+  email: DelJMcClellan@house.virginia.gov

Del. Roslyn Tyler,+ email: DelRTyler@house.virginia.gov

Del. David Bulova,+ email: DelDBulova@house.virginia.gov

Del. Mark Keam, email: DelMKeam@house.virginia.gov

Del. Daun Hester,* ^ email: DelDHester@house.virginia.gov

Del. Joseph Lindsey, ^ email: DelJLindsey@house.virginia.gov

Del. Lamont Bagby,* email: DelLBagby@house.virginia.gov

[ii] Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, 2016-19

Chairman Sharon Bulova, chairman@fairfaxcounty.gov

Vice Chairman Penelope Gross, Mason District, mason@fairfaxcounty.gov

John Cook, Braddock District, braddock@fairfaxcounty.gov

Daniel Storck, Mount Vernon District, mtvernon@fairfaxcounty.gov

John Foust, Dranesville District, dranesville@fairfaxcounty.gov

Linda Smyth, Providence District, provdist@fairfaxcounty.gov

Cathy Hudgins, Hunter Mill District, huntermill@fairfaxcounty.gov

Pat Herrity, Springfield District, springfield@fairfaxcounty.gov

Jeff McKay, Lee District, leedist@fairfaxcounty.gov

Kathy Smith, Sully District, sully@fairfaxcounty.gov

[iii] FCPS School Board Members

Jeanette Hough, At-Large Representative: jhough1@fcps.edu

Ryan McElveen, At-Large Representative: Ryan.McElveen@fcps.edu

Ilryong Moon, At-Large Representative: ilryong.moon@fcps.edu

Megan McLaughlin, Braddock Representative: megan.McLaughlin@fcps.edu

Jane Strauss, Dranesville Representative: jane.Strauss@fcps.edu

Pat Hynes, Hunter Mill Representative: pat.Hynes@fcps.edu

Tamara Derenak Kaufax, Lee Representative: tdkaufax@fcps.edu

Sandy Evans, Mason Representative: ssevans@fcps.edu

Elizabeth Schultz, Springfield Representative: elizabeth.Schultz@fcps.edu

Karen Corbett Sanders, Mt. Vernon Representative: klcorbettsan@fcps.edu

Dalia Palchik, Providence Representative: dapalchik@fcps.edu

Tom Wilson, Sully Representative: tawilson1@fcps.edu

__________________________________________________________________

Sample letter

RE: Your Support for three (3) important 2017 VA Legislative Assembly Education Bills

Dear [Insert VA Legislator name],

I write to request that you patron three important class size bills in the 2017 General Assembly, which will have direct, positive impact on students:

HB 1498Lowers elementary school class size caps from 29 to 28 in Kindergarten, 30 to 28 in Grades 1-3, and 35 to 29 in Grades 4-6.  Delegate Jim LeMunyon (67th District) is the Chief Patron, Mark Keam (35th District) is the Chief Co-Patron, and Delegates Jennifer Boysko (86th District) and Kaye Kory (38th District) are Co-Patrons.

Currently, Virginia law caps elementary school classes at 28 to 35 students, depending on the grade; these caps are among the highest hard class size caps in the nation, and are up to 40% higher than the current VA class averages. For example, the average Fairfax County Public School class this year has about 22 students, but the current state class size cap is 30 for grades 1-3 and 35 for grades 4-6.

Although our AVERAGE elementary school class sizes are reasonable, some school districts, like FCPS, still have a significant number of elementary classes with 30 or more students.  As parents and teachers have pointed out for years in testimony and comments, these excessively large classrooms take their toll on teachers and lead to less effective instruction for students.

HB 2173Caps science lab classes at 24 students consistent with safety recommendations by the American Chemistry Society, the National Science Teachers Association, and the National Science Education Leadership Association. This bill will prevent accidents during science experiments and improve the quality of middle and high school science instruction. Delegate Kathleen Murphy (34th District) is the Chief Patron on this bill, and Senator Janet Howell (District 32nd) and Delegate Jim LeMunyon are the Co-Patrons.

HB 2174 – Requires Virginia middle and high schools to publish their actual core academic class sizes. Although some middle and high schools provide this information voluntarily, other schools do not.  This bill provides greater transparency so that administrators, parents, and the community can remain informed about class size problem areas and act quickly to correct problems. Delegate Kathleen Murphy is the Chief Patron on this bill, and Senator Janet Howell and Delegate Jim LeMunyon are Co-Patrons.

 Virginia must do better to keep its edge as a world class education provider—particularly in the area of reasonable, safe and transparent class sizes. Here are a few facts that suggest we are losing that edge:

– Nearly half of all new teachers quit within five years, in part because they are overwhelmed by the job requirements, class size and limited training.

Large class sizes are one of the top factors influencing a teacher’s decision to leave.

I urge you to patron these three important class size bills in the 2017 General Assembly.  All students matter, and no teacher or child deserves to be in an unsafe, overcrowded classroom.

Sincerely,   [name, address, phone]

_____________________________________________________________________

The previous Superintendent Dr. Garza stated at a meeting sponsored by the McLean Citizens Association on December 1, 2014, “class sizes are a problem in some pockets of the county.” InsideNova article.

The average FCPS elementary school class has 22.4 students, the average middle school class has 24.6 students, and the average high school class has 25.8 students. See page 29 of the 2017 Washington Area Boards of Education Guide.

For all prior years, link to WABE Guide.

While those averages seem reasonable, many classes exceed 30 students while other classes have only 15 students.   Is that fair?  It’s 2017 and these “pockets” still exist.

Here is a list of ways to help reduce class sizes in your children’s schools.

a.         Become a Class Size Counts Supporter

Class Size Counts is working to eliminate very large class sizes in the schools where they are an issue. If you agree with this goal, please sign the online Class Size Counts petition.  Although it was written in 2013-14, the issues raised have not yet resolved. http://classsizecounts.com/?page_id=73

Share your school’s class size situation with us. We will try to connect you to CSC Liaisons in your area and provide you support: classsizecounts@gmail.com

 b.         Make sure your principal complies with state law

Virginia has class size caps for elementary school (grades KG through 6).  Kindergarten class sizes are capped at 29, 1st grade through 3rd grade class sizes at 30, and 4th through 6th grade classes at 35.  These caps exclude certain special education students who are pulled out for separate instruction.  https://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?000+cod+22.1-253.13C2

In 2013, representatives of Class Size Counts met with Delegate Barbara Comstock and the president of the Virginia Board of Education, Dave Foster.  FCPS principals were assigning students to homerooms with about 30 students, then assigning 36+ students to the top math section.  Principals claimed their 36+-student advanced math sections were not “classes” that violated the state’s 35-student state cap.

The Virginia Department of Education subsequently issued guidance stating that when students are regrouped for instruction in math or other subjects, those groups are considered a “class” for state law purposes.  Therefore, they are subject to the 35-student state class size cap for 4th through 6th grade students and the 30-student state class size cap for 1st through 3rd grade students.

Specific guidance also states:
“School divisions should make every effort to be in compliance with the student-teacher ratio and maximum class size requirements by September 30th and throughout the year; however, from time to time there may be unpredictable enrollments and unexpected circumstances that cause a school division to be temporarily out of compliance. When this occurs, the school division should make arrangements to come in to compliance as soon as possible.”

Based on this additional document, one can conclude the following:

(1) That there is no ‘deadline’ for a school to comply with maximum student enrollment caps, as set by the Commonwealth;

(2) That the maximum class size requirements are based on actual total student enrollment in that class, and not an average of that student enrollment number over the course of the year.

Example: Thus, if a school is at or below a 2nd grade class count of 30 for September through November, but then increases to a count of 31 for December, the school should make arrangements to come into compliance as soon as possible.

Is your child’s school complying with those state law class size caps?  If not, ask your principal to split that extra-large advanced math section (and any other large sections) into two groups, and to assign a teacher to each group.   If the principal refuses to comply with state law, contact your regional assistant superintendent.

c.          Contact School Board Members

Ask the School Board to give all students more comparable (and reasonable) class sizes, by sending an email to fairfaxcountyschoolboard@fcps.edu or from the listing provided above.  Find out whether your School Board member prioritizes reasonable class sizes for all children – or only for some.

Consider attending or signing up to testify at a  School Board’s public hearing. Attend your School  Board member’s open hours and meetings held at various dates and public facilities (libraries, schools and parks.)

d.         Get your school Parent Teacher Association (PTA) informed and involved

Join and become active in your school Parent Teacher Association (PTA) and make class size a priority for your school PTA and principal.

Monitor enrollment projections for your children’s schools in the Capital Improvement Program and the Proposed Budget.  If your school’s projections look low, ask your principal to correct them so your school gets enough teachers when the projections are run through the FCPS needs-based staffing formula.

Analyze your school’s detailed online budget teacher position allocations, to find out whether your school’s large classes are caused in part by your principal’s decision to “trade” classroom teacher positions for aides, specialists, or other resource teachers.   Survey parents and teachers about their views.  Discuss with your principal about why she traded classroom teacher positions, and make sure the Parent Teacher Association represents the views of the school’s parents and the teachers.

 e.          Contact your Supervisor

Ask your Supervisor to speak to School Board members about making reasonable class sizes for all children their priority in the FY 2018 Budget for FCPS.

Supervisors do not vote on the FCPS budget; they only vote on how much money to transfer to FCPS, and School Board members decide how to spend that money.  However, if Supervisors express a strong interest in an issue, it may cause some School Board members to modify their historic positions.

Attend your Supervisor’s open office hours and meetings held at various locations through out the year.

 f.         Work with classroom teachers

If your child’s teacher doesn’t provide enough differentiated and individualized instruction for your child, ask the teacher and the students what you can do to help, and whether class size is a factor.   If a teacher asks for volunteers, work with the PTA or class parent(s) to make sure that the teacher gets what she needs.

One thought on “What Can Parents Do?

  1. This write-up has been extremely informative regarding class size. We had issues last year with our three first grade classes being at 29 students and now this year there will be three second grade classes at 28 students as of right now. Our principal has been trying to get us another teacher and was even promised two more teachers last spring. Then the budget was passed and those promises went away. Our primary students are suffering because of this. I am working on creating a change.org petition directed toward our Region 5 supervisor requesting another teacher for our primary grades.

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