Class Size Reduction is a Fool’s Game

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

It’s almost two months into the school year; children have adjusted to their classroom, their teacher and the other students. They don’t have one split grade in the entire school; classes are slightly higher but parents, teachers and students are happy. Curriculum Night was held last week and the principal sent a letter home to all parents stating that:

“Our staffing model this year was tentative until September 30. This period of time allows the school board to balance the number of teachers with students across the TCDSB. The criteria used to determine staffing include the Ministry’s Primary Class Size and parameters of our contracts. The Ministry allows 10% of primary classes within the board to have up to 23 pupils per class. This year, our school is included in the 10% for the TCDSB. As a result there will be no class changes and the current staffing model will remain”.

It’s all about to change for students at St. Agnes Catholic School in North York and so many other schools across the city. This school will be reorganized to meet the Province’s primary class size cap and go from no split grades to at least six split grades, wreaking havoc on an entire school community. Imagine the horror when parents heard the bad news – not only would they have split grades but two months into the school year the students will be uprooted to a new classroom, new students and a new teacher. It’s like the first two months of school are a complete waste.

Unfortunately, schools are forced to institute split classes as a way of accommodating small classes in the lower grades and the larger classes in the upper grades – an unintended consequence of class size reduction. The Ministry of Education mandates 90% of all primary classes (kindergarten to Grade 3), not go over the cap of 20 students. The remaining 10% can have up to 23 students. Some schools are scrambling to find space to accommodate the extra classes; others are adding portables while they await new additions to their schools.

At a private meeting of the Board attended by Trustees on October 15th, Angela Gauthier, Associate Director of Academic Affairs informed members that the Board was not fully compliant with the hard cap of 90% – the TCDSB is at 89.7%. This means that another 30 to 40 schools will still need to be reorganized adding further disruption to student learning. If the hard cap is not met then the Board will be financially penalized. How is this good for education?

Maria Rizzo, a Trustee with the Toronto Catholic District School Board said “Any one will tell you it’s better to have a straight class with two or three extra kids than a split class. What most parents don’t know is that on October 30th the cap can be pierced. This arbitrary date is a fool’s game – the hard cap for smaller class sizes after October 30th becomes irrelevant and meaningless as the class size can exceed the cap after this day – and no one is the wiser.”

“Reducing class size in the early grades was an election promise of the present government. They have kept their promise but this education policy is about moving children to suit the policy rather than deal with what is in the student’s best interest. The child should come first, not popular opinion or polls. Sure, class size matters, but at what expense? ” said Rizzo.

It is time that the Ministry thinks about making the hard cap policy more flexible and more responsive to the needs of students, but Education Minister Kathleen Wynne has been quoted as saying: “The problem with more flexibility is that you end up without a cap. I am not advocating for disruption but being in a smaller class for the rest of the year will ultimately benefit a child. After October 30th there is no cap. Let’s not let those inconvenient things like facts get in the way of the agenda! Policies to reduce class size may enjoy popular political appeal and are widely supported but education policies must cater to the child not the policy.

Superintendent, Michael McMorrow and Trustee Maria Rizzo have been inundated with e-mails and phone calls from angry parents. Parents have also contacted their MPP and the Minister’s office with no response. Both Rizzo and McMorrow are planning to attend a community meeting at St. Agnes (280 Otonabee Avenue) to address the issues on Tuesday October 21, 2008 at 7:00 p.m. Even if the Board agrees to leave things as they are at St. Agnes all they will be doing is foisting upheaval on other schools.

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For further information please contact:
Trustee Maria Rizzo
Ward 5, Toronto Catholic District School Board
Telephone: 647 221 5293
E-Mail: maria.rizzo@tcdsb.org