December 6th, 2011
07:02 AM ET

Does class size matter?

By Rose Arce, CNN

Editor’s note: This is Part 1 of a two-part series on overcrowding and undercrowding in schools.  You can see Part 2 here.

New York’s Forest Hills High School comes alive at 7:30 in the morning when students swarm in to start their day. But there are so many students, that the school has created a second shift at 8:30 and a third at 10:30 a.m. By the time the last students arrive, the first are already having a very early lunch.

That’s just one solution schools around the country have found to the vexing problem of overcrowding. In schools across the country, trailers line parking lots and athletic fields, extracurricular programs and arts classes are vanishing and gym classes, which have higher size limits, are packed. The schools have lost nearly a quarter million teachers since 2008 because of budget cuts, and the long-lingering aftermath of the recession continues to bite.

“Overcrowding means students don’t get the attention they need from their teachers, they just don’t. They don’t learn as much, they withdraw, they become disruptive, some drop out,” said Leonie Haimson, a parent who runs Class Size Matters, a group advocating for better student-teacher ratios. “Parents and teachers know they can’t do their best in classes of 30 or more.”

At Forest Hills, a school built for 1,400, is housing nearly 4,000. The building is a showcase for the New York public schools, nestled in a very diverse middle class community in Queens that has big houses. Its vast football field and towering ceilings mask an overcrowding situation that has some of the biggest class sizes in the city.

Principal Saul Gootnick shrugs off concerns that academics could suffer.

“The city of New York says there is a maximum of 34 students in every class, so there are 34 students in this class,” the fast-talking social studies teacher says as he walks through one history classroom. “There are no oversized classes in this building. We work with the United Federation of Teachers, and we see to it that every class is in compliance, 34 is a very manageable number, depending on you know, the needs of each and every student and how you handle every student.

“The motto of Forest Hills High School is, it all begins and ends in a classroom, and the job of the teacher is to know who the students are, what their needs are, what the focus is and we did this.”

Across the country, students are packed in

Nationwide, there are many schools bursting at the seams. Leonie Haimson points to a National Center for Education Statistics study that says about 14% of all schools are exceeding capacity, and 8% are overcrowding their building size by more than 25%.

A study done by UCLA concluded that one out of three California students were being educated in overcrowded schools.

South Gate Middle School in Los Angeles had 4,200 children in a building meant for 800. To complicate matters, more than half of the children in California’s overcrowded schools were non-English speaking kids trying to master a new language.

The only schools with more severe overcrowding were in Utah, the nation’s fastest-growing state with a high birth rate. It also has some of the least money per pupil. That’s one consequence, in part, of having so many children per tax-paying adult.

At Truman Elementary, outside Salt Lake City, there are several families with multiple kids just a year apart.

They have plenty of space in the classroom but not enough teachers to go around. In nearby Taylorsville, the elementary school has kids in three trailers because a school built for 500 children has 740.

“We have special education and reading sharing space,” said administrator John Randell. “We have a gym that’s a multipurpose room with a stage. The stage is a parent’s center and music class for band and orchestra. We have to schedule around physical education. Lunch starts at 11:30 and goes until 1:15.”

The school is also half Hispanic, with many immigrants needing language instruction, something teachers find challenging with so many children. Howard Driggs Elementary, also outside Salt Lake City, has a cart in place of an art room and uses a multipurpose room for gym.

The heart of the matter: Student-teacher ratios

As the discussion over quality schools has shifted focus to charter schools, testing and better teaching, advocates such as Haimson say they have become a smokescreen covering up the biggest issue for parents: rising teacher-student ratios. “I don’t know that there has ever been a study that didn’t show that class size doesn’t matter,” she said. “In every survey of parents and teachers, this is what they care the most about.”

But the discussion is shifting. When New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was campaigning for his job, he promised smaller class sizes because he believed they would improve learning. As recently as early December, he was singing a different tune, telling students at MIT that “double the class size with a better teacher is a good deal for students” and accusing unions of driving down their own salaries by pushing for smaller classes. Dennis Walcott, chancellor of New York City schools, has said class size is important but that effective teaching is more important.

New York, with its 1 million students, has the largest school system in the country. This year, the United Federation of Teachers, New York’s teachers union, did an annual survey of how many children were in each classroom. They found that 7,000 classrooms exceeded the limits of what they deemed acceptable for proper learning.

“Budget cuts have a human cost,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew.

Mulgrew estimates that 91% of New York schools have lost resources because of budget cuts, everything from teachers to textbooks. Nearly two-thirds of the schools have cut back on instructional supplies directly related to learning, 60% of schools have reduced after-school programs and half have fewer tutoring and extracurricular activities. The UFT’s contract specifies that class size limits be 25 for kindergarten, 32 for grades 1 to 6 and 33 for middle school and 34 for high school.

AT PS1, a school in downtown Manhattan with many Chinatown students, there is one kindergarten class with 32 kids, according to the PTA.

“Because the great majority of our students do not speak English at home, our school prided itself on keeping class sizes as low as possible,” said union leader Christine Wong, a playground filled to capacity behind her.

An experiment that pays off

One experiment in recent years underscores how relevant class size can be to performance. San Diego used stimulus dollars to reduce class sizes in its 30 poorest districts to 16 students in kindergarten through second grade. The result was a rise in test scores from 45% to 56% proficient in English. California’s schools now face steep budget cuts that would reduce the number of teachers and therefore increase class sizes.

Reducing class size is “one of four educational reforms that the Institute of Education Science says have been proven to work,” said Haimson. “That’s the research arm of the Department of Education.”

The students at Forest Hills High School have the benefit of smart boards, paid for by dollars their principal solicited from local leaders. Gootnick has also found space for art, music, drama and extracurricular activities by taking over the attic, basement and even a steeple that houses the clock. He has broken the school up into academies and makes attending the prom contingent on coming to class.

Despite being one of the most overcrowded schools in the city,Forest Hills was rated an A by the Department of Education. “We have an 87% graduation rate; we have 97% of those kids going to college. We make it so, that we make it as pleasant as possible,” he said.

He has earned high praise from students and unionized teachers for his efforts.

Santiago Gomez, a senior, says, “during periods 6 and 7 you definitely feel it, I mean walking down the halls, and it’s very claustrophobic. I think the way we do it's great because kids still learn from each other.”

Even while praising Gootnick’s progress, Eddy Mesidor, UFT representative for Forest Hills, laments that the overcrowding at the school is the worst he’s seen in 20 years.

“If we have different students at different levels in the same classroom and there are so many of them during the span of time ... It is quite difficult to reach out to each one of them.”

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  1. Observer from Forest Hills High School

    A few pointers that aren't mentioned in the article:
    1. Half of the school has never met the principal, let alone know him by face.
    2. These large classes are typically "successful" in honors classes.
    3. We still had problems with programming well into late November.
    4. Despite the fact of the diversity in the school, we have fewer clubs than a school of 2000.
    5. Although we got 3 A's in 3 years, the state still doubts our credibility.
    Just a thought.

    December 12, 2011 at 1:36 am |
  2. Missaness

    Heh. My child tried to sneak out of finishing her homework this last Friday, having my brother (who takes her to school) sign off on it, after I told her I would not sign off until she did a better job on her reading summary. All I was asking for was 3 more sentences which would take all of 5 minutes.

    My brother said to ask me if it was okay, and she disappeared into my bedroom for about a minute, came back out and said, "Momma said yes."

    My child's teacher was shocked when I requested the homework packet back. She felt 2 sentences were acceptable, even though they did not in any way have anything to do with a summary. My child will be turning her work in late on Monday, with a note to the teacher that all assignments may only be signed by myself and my husband.

    Her teacher asked my brother why I wanted it back, apparently it is acceptable to have even a family friend sign off on a child's homework in her classroom. She should've remembered the parent/teacher conference a month and a half ago when she was shocked that we requested that if Aya didn't finish her work in class to send it home with her. She was impressed then, but I guess with all the parents that just don't care, she's forgotten that some do.

    Unfortunately, not many.

    December 11, 2011 at 2:51 am |
    • TruthMeter

      Parents and students are customers to teachers. They're afraid to make customers unhappy after all the criticisms they have been receiving.

      December 11, 2011 at 9:36 am |
  3. rockybird

    "To complicate matters, more than half of the children in California’s overcrowded schools were non-English speaking kids trying to master a new language."

    "At Truman Elementary, outside Salt Lake City, there are several families with multiple kids just a year apart...The school is also half Hispanic, with many immigrants needing language instruction, something teachers find challenging with so many children."

    Isnt it obvioius what a large part of the problem is due to? If you are an illegal immigrant, than you should pay public tuition for your child to attend school...or, at the very least, you should be required to cover the cost of English language instruction.

    December 11, 2011 at 2:03 am |
    • Voice of Reason

      Rockybird: You are making the assumption that non-english speakers are illegal immigrants – an assumption that is simply not true. Some of my third generation high school students still speak their native languages at home. In addition, many of my english language learners were refuges and legal immigrants. It is important to consider deeper the sources of the issues before making judgments....

      December 11, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
  4. Lana

    the same thing is going on in universities and colleges across America!

    They all speak to the failing education system, lack of parenting skills, horrible economic system and a slew of others factors that are plaguing American society.

    Essentially we all have to take responsibility as a people

    December 11, 2011 at 1:40 am |
    • hilo, HI

      I agree. ***Personal Responsibility*** A neighbor of mine complains about her kids school all the time. She is on welfare and just had her 6th baby. Well, not paying taxes at all, in fact draining them -what does she expect? They can't squeeze blood from a stone.

      December 11, 2011 at 2:03 am |
  5. TruthMeter

    LIARS. Forest Hills, and Francis Lewis high schools has about 3900, and 4000+ students respectively. Here is the truth. They are in good well to do communities so they get best pick of students with good parents. Bad students with bad parents have to apply outside of their zone schools to get into these schools. Smart principals will fill up first with good students and when out of zones students apply they take the pick of the litter before giving a few left over space for bad out of zone students. Give me the best teacher from any of these "good" schools and ask if at least one student did badly. Now investigate that one student. If you're good why did that one student fail. Now multiply that one student to get what you have in failing school. That's a mathematical approach where you use infinitesimal change to determine larger outcomes. (Beware of LIARS and HYPOCRITES.)

    December 11, 2011 at 1:02 am |
    • hilo, HI

      "Bad students" are mostly the result of bad parenting. Why should a 'good school' take that on? Every city has a library, no matter how low income the neighborhood. Turn of the TV, put down the beer, and take the kids to it. It's too easy to blame someone else. If every school in the US closed tomorrow, I'd still be educated my children -on my own.

      December 11, 2011 at 2:05 am |
      • TruthMeter

        The point is that we should not always blame the teachers for everything. If you take all the teachers in the "good" and failing schools and make a swap, the teachers from the good schools will start to see the same failure rate. The teachers from the bad schools will have tremendous successes. STOP picking on teachers when so much of the fault is on the parents.

        December 11, 2011 at 9:30 am |
    • Voice of Reason

      What happened to "it takes a village to raise a child?" I feel that I have responsibility to help and educate all – and as a 25 year veteran of teaching, I know that I can make a difference in a child's life by showing I care and doing all I can to help her/him succeed.... Bad students is a awful term – students in need of support – that is much more representative of the students that I have worked with – they are challenged by so many factors – and they need all those around them to help them realize that they can succeed...

      December 11, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
  6. JM

    I would respond more fully, but after this week of teaching with bronchitis (30+ students in each class), I am too exhausted to respond to much more than the following. Instead, I will just roll my eyes like many of my students do to me, and I will say, I love it how people think they "know" how to fix a teacher's problems just because they went through the education system. I dare anyone who wants to fix my problems to come into my classroom and deal with the racial slurs, foul language, and emotional abuse I deal with every day, yet muster up all my remaining self-worth to try to do it all again the next.

    December 11, 2011 at 12:51 am |
    • TruthMeter

      Your symptoms tell me you have bad students with nasty parenting. Remedy: Such students should be in a 1 to 1 class setting. They think it’s cool to be stupid while their peers watch.

      December 11, 2011 at 1:14 am |
  7. macstone

    Teachers are some of the dumbest people, therefore, class size is not going to matter much at this point. Education should start at home, however, parents are not willing to take on any responsibility and they choose to let a third party teach their kids about life, science and moral conduct.

    December 10, 2011 at 11:57 pm |
    • Sammi6532

      What a statement! I'll agree that learning starts at home and parents need to be involved in that, but maybe part of the problem is also people like yourself who instill in their child the thought that they do not have to respect their teacher.

      December 11, 2011 at 12:54 am |
    • Brent

      While I agree that you may have had some sub standard teachers – where I live I had to complete a degree with two certifications – I have a BSE in math & economics plus 30 grad. credits to boot – You feel we're all to stupid to trust your kids with – think again. One reason so many urban teachers give up caring is because many students come to them as unruly, under-parented needy we all know that's not true of all students...but if you have one ore two – it's two too many – try teaching a full curriculum to the satisfaction of admin., parents and the state while fearing for your life and learning a second language, because the students living in the US don't know ENGLISH! Why do these schools still have FOOTBALL Stadiums and Proms if they can't build enough classrooms and hire enough teachers to teach English, Math, Science, etc.? Don't the basics come first – then IF you have the money and space you offer EXTRA-curriculars – get a grip people – fund the schools and participate in your child's life! Parent is a verb, too!

      December 11, 2011 at 12:55 am |
    • JM

      Wow. You obviously have never been around too many teachers. You must be jaded by your lack of personal success and accomplishment. Why else would you say such a false statement. I guess it is always easier to put the blame on someone else.

      December 11, 2011 at 12:57 am |
    • Silence

      Actually, you sound pretty dumb yourself.

      December 11, 2011 at 1:11 am |
    • TruthMeter

      Not all teachers are dumb. If that was the case, I should automatically conclude that you're dumb too.

      December 11, 2011 at 1:22 am |
    • Voice of Reason

      That does not help – in 25+ years of teaching I certainly have encountered some teachers that were much more dedicated and involved than others – but never any that I would consider as being "dumb" – perhaps some time volunteering in a local school will help you gain a deeper understanding of the true culture of schools – after some time in the schools and getting to know the teachers a bit maybe you can find a different way to express your concerns for education....

      December 11, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
  8. Cory

    Education needs more funding. The lack of funding is hurting everyone. The sad part is that the government will not put the extra money into it that is needed. what I find even more sad is parents are willing to send their kids to private schools to avoid the public school system. Honestly how many congressman have children going to public school.

    Class sizes can and should be set for certain subjects. Subjects that require understanding concepts like math should have capped class sizes that are low. Classes like history where you are simply memorizing information don't necessarily need class sizes as small as those for classes where understanding processes is crucial. Of course this too should be set within reasonable limits. Simply put children should not be attending lectures in middle school.

    I don't like the way this article seems to paint the difficulty of those who don't speak english well as a burden. Even if it complicates matters so do those children with disabilities such as myself. If a student desires to learn and comes to school every day with a smile on their face then they should be able and have the right to learn. What bothers me are the people who attend who don't want to learn. They're the ones who are clogging up the system.

    December 10, 2011 at 11:48 pm |
    • Sky

      Personally, As a teacher, I don't think we need MORE funding, I think we need more freedom to use the money how it needs to be used. Example: My classroom (in AZ) holds a piece of technology that controls the internet access and phone access for my area of the school. The computer inside of that technology has a battery has died. For the last year it has had a daisy chain of cords crossing the room to pug into the nearest plug. (This is a HUGE fire hazard.) When I ask when it is going to get fixed, this is the answer I get, "We don't have money in the budget that can pay for a battery, but we do have money in the budget for a whole new computer." The computer costs twice as much as the battery, but since the first budget is out, they have to spend twice as much to be able to get the technology they need. If they could just shift the money they'd spend a couple hundred dollars left. That money I could then use for the KIDS.

      December 11, 2011 at 2:05 am |
  9. Terry Brookman

    You can't fix stupid.

    December 10, 2011 at 10:52 pm |
    • TruthMeter

      Yes We Can. Start with parents who only visit schools to fight teachers. The system is currently designed to create a massive underclass so we have people for 21st century slavery. We only need 1% to do well, the other 99% will waste time in school and later complain that foreigners are stealing their jobs. I don't hear doctors, lawyers, etc complaining about that. The Rich like Bloomberg in New York only pretends, but pray that this underclass is as large as possible. Remember this is a capitalist country. We need to produce dumb people to maintain Rich vs Poor. Things are not always what they seem.

      December 11, 2011 at 1:31 am |
  10. letsgomets2012!

    Split schedules are not a new idea.

    I had them twice: once when I was in third grade - a new addition was being added to the grammar school - and again in 10th grade; the school held 2000 students and it was only made for about 600.

    December 10, 2011 at 10:12 pm |
  11. That Guy

    I graduated from Brooklyn Tech and the problem is there, too. There are over 5000 students (9th to 12th grade) in the school at the moment (over a thousand more than when I graduated) and the numbers are just going to grow as they gradually lower the bar for the entrance exam.

    December 10, 2011 at 9:59 pm |
  12. DKDJuniata

    The problem isn't the classroom size, it is the conduct of some students that mandates smaller classroom sizes. I hate to say "when I went to school," but the reality is that when I went to school, from 1st grade through 12th, my class size was always between 30-40 students and teachers did not have aides to help them. The difference was that we knew better than to cause trouble – because then we were in BIG trouble at home; and that was the same for practically all the students too. Children need to come to school having been taught manners and proper behavior at home so teachers can spend their time teaching – not dealing with other issues. And children who do act in a way to disrupt classes should be removed to allow those students who are cooperating to have a learning experience.

    December 10, 2011 at 9:45 pm |
    • Parent50

      Please. I went to high school in the late 70's and we double-shifted THEN. This is not a new phenomenon. As DKDJuniata said, parents need to get more involved and the schools need to take a stand on kids that are behavior problems and get them out of the classroom. Let the kids who can act properly learn, and let the others learn to behave.

      December 10, 2011 at 10:10 pm |
      • letsgomets2012!

        Behavorial problems, truants, students that are too old to be in their class (I know of somebody who had a 15 year old as her student in 6th grade) and other problematic students: put them in an alternative school; get them out of the mainstream.

        And take the students that will be too old to graduate with high school classmates - and get them in a GED program. The 15 year old I mentioned does NOT belong in sixth grade with 11 and 12 year olds.

        The kid was a damn FATHER, to boot. UGH.

        December 10, 2011 at 10:15 pm |
  13. Felix

    If class size is not important, then let us classes with 100 students or even larger. Teacher salaries would go up and the community would still safe a lot of money.

    December 10, 2011 at 9:25 pm |
    • Sky

      100 kids in one room? It's hard enough to give all the kids the attention they need NOW, let alone if you add more kids.

      December 11, 2011 at 2:06 am |
  14. heidi

    A thousand kids can be taught at one time on their home computers..or even their cell phones, now.

    December 10, 2011 at 9:24 pm |
    • TruthMeter

      Great! I can just see a pre-k, kindergarten, elementary, or middle school student forming their opinion while they watch videos and not turn to the cartoon channels. While we are at it, let’s reduce to voting age to 0.

      December 11, 2011 at 1:44 am |
  15. Dan

    Classes can reverse the lecture/homework process by assigning lectures on video as the homework, and then using the class to solve personal learning issues. This is more hands on for teachers, and they are dealing with a student that is more informed.

    If the student moves ahead in the lectures, so much the better, and automated testing will show this to the teacher, as well as save bored children that master the material faster. Also testing can be for mastery not for C level or B level passing grades. Unmastered subjects in mathematics are often required later, and that is why many students naturally good at math give up on it later.

    Here are the lectures, available for free. Real units should be given to students regardless of how they learn!!!

    December 10, 2011 at 9:06 pm |
    • Sky

      Love the idea- Here's the problem: What about kids who don't have access to the internet? I'm in a very well-to-do school, and I still have 5 kids of my 29 who don't have net.

      December 11, 2011 at 2:07 am |
  16. CommonSense

    Teachers aren't able to handle large classes today because they basically function as a social worker, parent, and disciplinarian as well as a teacher. All it takes is one child to screw up the learning experience for everyone else. Until we install a system that integrates social workers, psychiatrists, and parental accountability into our school system... the system is going to continue to underperform.

    Poorly paying teachers in this country also leads to smartest students in the United States gravitating towards other professions. You walk onto any college campus and the education department isn't exactly the beacon of scholarship. Realistically, the only way to improve teacher pay is to increase class size. You need a larger tax base in each classroom to justify higher pay. All the teacher unions want smaller class size and more pay while ignoring the reality of economics.

    December 10, 2011 at 8:31 pm |
  17. eric

    yeah, and they'll keep telling these poor saps that class size doesn't matter while the wealthy in NYC are paying $40K a year to send their kids to private schools that have class sizes of 20 students or less...yeah, some of these kids will succeed, but having taught in both publick and private, I know many more of these kids would strive if they were able to get personalized attention from their teachers...Check to see how many big city elected officials are sending their kids to public


    December 10, 2011 at 8:31 pm |
  18. Mike

    What is missing from all the mix, in all the discussions, for years, is the accountability of management to insure the implementation of what has been determined to be the curriculum. Does each child get the same lesson? Whether they get it or not is the teachers job, but can management say at any particular time that all classes of 5th grad math are within a week or two of the same lessons. Does one class miss half the book by the end of the year?

    If Chris missed half the book, and next year, when the deck is reshuffled and classes are mixed, Chris will show up in the next grade as a child disadvantaged, automatically. Multiply this by the number of children then by the number of schools and you get a nation that doesn’t have the basics.

    December 10, 2011 at 10:08 am |
    • Brent

      But why did he miss half the book – was he there everyday? With supplies? Willing to learn? Turning in homework when due? In a room w/o half a dozen disruptive students keeping the class from progressing – Too often the teacher's hands are tied – I had one principal tell me to send disruptive students to the office – allowing the rest of the class to learn – when I did this, however, I was labeled for not dealing with the problem in the classroom and sending too many to the office. Administrators today do not support thier teachers and demand that parents actually train their children. Don't be afraid to stand up and demand good behavior – When we ignore it, it just gets worse!

      December 11, 2011 at 1:05 am |
  19. Ms. B

    I am new teacher (this is my fifth year teaching) and when I started, I had 20 kids. It was perfect! I really felt like I could reach the kids, we could do things and go places and study things with control and purpose. Now, I feel like I'm just trying to control the masses. I can't go on as many field trips, or study as many things, because with extra students comes extra time to get ready for recess etc.

    For those of you who say that Catholic school was okay with 50+ students, remember that those nuns also were allowed to use rulers and paddles to keep you in line. We have missed recesses and overstressed principals now. Trust me, it's not the same.

    And for those of you who think teachers are whining about class size, remember your child's last birthday party? Where you had 15 kids come over for a pizza party with a jumping house? Remember how tired you were when it was over? Imagine feeling like that everyday-–and also having to teach seven subjects to the chaotic herd of kids.

    Class-size reduction isn't a cure-all, but it is a partial fix-it.

    December 9, 2011 at 11:57 pm |
    • Teach


      December 10, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
      • Malena

        So true! I can actually relate on what u said coz my husband is a teacher and he felt the same way too.

        December 10, 2011 at 10:12 pm |
    • Brent

      Exactly – part of the problem! Why do the kids need parties with 15 friends and a jumping house? I am 52, taught for 22 years and have NEVER had a birthday party in my life – we indulge these kids with parties, gifts, field trips, bring them something just because we left the house !!!! It has to end – those things should be earned, IF given at all! We need to go back to a society of people concerned about respect and peaceful behavior.

      December 11, 2011 at 1:09 am |
  20. aydusa


    December 9, 2011 at 7:19 am |
  21. Jeffrey


    December 8, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
  22. iBod

    Blaming the parents is as good an argument as arguing the parent should be the one teaching their child science and math, etc. The only education a student receives from his parents is moral/ethic value. You hear this argument all the time: Parents blaming teachers; teachers blaming parents...You know the only persons capable of giving a valid and truthful argument? The students. I'm less than two years out of high school and I can tell you, firsthand. I remember the issues like yesterday. The problem is Teachers. And guess what? I was in the top 10% of my class of over 400. There are good teachers, understand that. But you know the bad ones when you see them–or hear about them. My friends and I didn't talk sh** about teachers for the Hell of it. And it wasn't so much the freshies out of college/grad school compared to these old bast**ds who were either at the peak of their career or ready to retire. I have noticed the freshies had a clearer passion to the job and were very lively and active. The old teachers were tired and crabby and had more of a "Here's the material, homework due tomorrow" approach. You want to know why the older generations were bad teachers? They were too damn easy. The younger teachers had a clear approach to what they wanted to do, and most of it was through application–such as projects and group-work and essays; and when the teacher spoke it wasn't straightforward, it was a comprehensive outlook. These were things I felt challenged with, yet enjoyed; and cherished because, even so a year and a half later, they are the ones I remember. That's an education. Not these morons who think tests are the answers to everything.

    In relation to the article, Yes, I think size plays a big role in the learning process. However, I think if a teacher has a class where application is a big part of the syllabus, then they need not worry about so many students struggling about the material, as opposed to a simple History course where you read, take notes, and take a multiple choice test a week later. The brain is meant to learn long-term processes; memories are short-term and are only part of its storage, so when it assumes what is not needed, it will destroy them. Having a multiple choice test is not a process, it's a memory exam. The long run proves the foolishness of such a test. I do not understand how people cannot grasp that concept. But you know who you blame for keeping that concept going? Teachers.

    December 7, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
    • J

      I have to commend you for a very well thought out comment.

      December 10, 2011 at 8:17 pm |
    • tom

      So you blame teachers for how they teach. That is understandable, but naive. You also advocate for more projects, group work, etc. Let me ask this... who do you think grades those? Who do you think plans out these lessons? Who do you think has to execute? You know the answer, and it's teachers!

      As class sizes increase, do you really think a teacher can handle grading 30+ projects? 3 min per assignment x 30 = 90 min per class x 6 classes = 9 hours to grade on that project alone. Now let's also assume that the teacher doesn't utilize any class time to grade, so not only are they working 40 hours+ just in teaching, they now have 9 hours after school for grading. Let's also add in the 3-4 hours to plan for that activity and project, developing the assignment and syllabus.

      Getting the picture yet? So to say you can just give them projects is just naive and typical of someone who has no clue what a teacher actually does after class.

      December 10, 2011 at 8:29 pm |
      • Ericka

        I WISH it was only 3 minutes per project. I average 7-8 per paper. Multiply THAT by 175 students, for EACH essay cycle. If we want QUALITY feedback for our students, then yes, absolutely class sizes matter. Anyone who cannot see that little realistic factoid is blind.

        December 10, 2011 at 11:03 pm |
    • Ginger315

      Blame the teachers, eh? Don't like to study for tests, eh? Like the group work and projects that aren't even your own, plagarized and copied from others, eh? For those projects, etc., who do you think grades them? With more in the classroom, where does the additional time come from? Do you have a solution where to get the extra hours from? Can you create them? Can the teacher day have more than 24 hours? Thought not. Don't condemn till you've walked a mile in somebody's shoes. Are you going to become a teacher since you know it all? Why not? Ahhh, I see, you only want to critize. I've got your number;)

      December 10, 2011 at 10:52 pm |
  23. JOSE0311USMC


    December 7, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
  24. Taysha

    I am going to have to respectfully disagree.

    The smallest class I was ever in was 36 children. There were 4 such classes per grade. None of my classmates, nor myself, nor the ones that came before or after, seem to have been unduly influenced by this. We had our dumb students and our smart students, but we still had a 95% graduation rate.

    December 7, 2011 at 9:29 am |
    • Brent

      But was your teacher allowed to have complete controll of the class? Most are not allowed! I have been hit, bitten, spat upon, called every name in the book. I have had students lie about me and administrators accept it. We live in a time when teachers, generally speaking, are no longer respected – the kids rule the home, the school and neighborhood – While I have had 36 in a class – it was an Honors Algebra class that could handle it. Most classes must be 25 or less. Parent is a verb people – get your kids under control and these discussions about class size will be mute!

      December 11, 2011 at 1:15 am |
    • hilo, HI

      Graduation rate doesn't mean much. Many schools have been caught graduating functionally illiterate students.
      The SAT scores, number who went on to college would be more accurate.

      December 11, 2011 at 2:13 am |
  25. Crusade2267

    "Dennis Walcott, chancellor of New York City schools, has said class size is important but that effective teaching is more important."

    Effective teaching is directly linked to class size, because the most effective teaching is individualized and personalized to the needs of each individual student. A teacher with a class of 15 will be able to spend twice as much time individually with each student than a teacher with a class of 30.

    December 7, 2011 at 9:16 am |
    • Dana

      I partially disagree. As a child I had NO "individual" time at all with my teacher. I grew up well, am educated (M.Sc.) and do not complain about my past. It all boils down to PARENTS. If they understand their duties as parent, all will be well for the kid.

      December 7, 2011 at 10:07 am |
      • That Guy

        Can't agree with you more. My mom drilled it into me that school was really important, not just for the grades, but for life.

        December 10, 2011 at 10:14 pm |
    • That Guy

      I really disagree with that. A calculus class I once took had seven students in it (with 1 or 2 usually not there). Despite the size, people generally did more poorly than if they had been in a larger lecture-hall sized class because the professor we couldn't explain anything. Its the teacher that is the biggest influence on whether you learn.

      Likewise, I just finished an Electronics course this semester with 50+ other students. This was one of the best courses I've taken so far and I've learned A LOT this semester in this class.

      December 10, 2011 at 10:12 pm |
  26. martin

    This is a union agenda. They will lie and tell the country that their child's future depends on small class sizes. And if you oppose, you are heartless and anti-children. But the truth is, the unions want more power with bigger budgets and more teachers. Power. power , power...and we pay the bills and are worse off for it, because education is all about the unions and their power, not about the kids. But CNN is in the unions pockets, and will not expose their lies.

    December 7, 2011 at 8:35 am |
    • mick

      I'm not sure how much time you have spent in a classroom lately, but YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING. Teach a class of 40 and it is no longer about teaching, it is about crowd control. It is obvious from your comment you have an agenda that has nothing to do with education.

      December 7, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
      • Teacher from New Mexico

        I agree with Mick. My classes have moved from 32 last year (too large) to 39 and 40 this year. Students are sardines in a classroom meant for 24 students. Try to keep 40 eleven year olds from talking non-stop. Preferential seating for struggling learners or behavioral issues is a joke- the only available seating is on the floor. Better yet try to offer timely feedback to students so they can reflect on their strengths and growth areas. I love teaching- but my job is about crowd control and developing strategies for getting students quiet long enough for all students to hear instructions for the day.

        December 7, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
    • jb

      Oh Martin. I am so sad to see such a myopic reply. Having taught class sizes ranging from 6 – 36 in the last years I can tell you that having 36 in a class, especially under NYC's model of education, led to very little instruction or support and a lot of "pretend reading" and crowd control. It is a sad loss, and even more so when we (or others with agendas) lose sight of the most important factor here – the students.
      In response to a post above regarding how a number of us made it without "individual" time wtih the teacher. True. But which teachers DO you remember? Those that had the time. We are also teaching in a very different world than that in which most of us grew up.
      Class size absoultely matters. Can an effective teacher manage a large class? OF COURSE. But that teacher WILL burn out, WILL be replaced by a less effective teacher, and WILL NOT be able to have the impact he/she could in an environment better suited to the learning child.

      December 9, 2011 at 7:23 am |
    • 2nd grade teacher

      Unions want money to hire more teachers, buy supplies, and build more school not because they are power hungry. Trust me, NO TEACHER GOES INTO THE PROFESSION FOR MONEY!

      December 10, 2011 at 10:26 am |
    • Rolf

      Sorry! My reply to Martin was meant for DKD Juniata. Rolf. "My bad."

      December 11, 2011 at 1:41 am |
  27. Bran

    Nothing new in this article. I have been out of school a long time. The grammar school I went to had a dual purpose gym as described in the article. The high school I went to had two shifts. We had lunch in 3 shifts. Now back to the grammar school. It had portable building quite a few years ago. Now here's the difference... We were in school to learn. We respected the teachers. Our teachers were not "educated" in the '60's. During the '60's, you did not have to take irrelevant courses. The teachers that went to school during that time are not the best this country has produced. As a result the kids today are not as well educated as those of us were done with our formal education by the mid 60's. Oh yes, the high school I went to has produced more PhD's than any other.

    December 7, 2011 at 8:26 am |
  28. Steven Antonelli

    Only people who have never stood in front of a group of 34 children and attempted to meet the individual academic and social emotional needs of each of them will question whether class size matters.

    December 7, 2011 at 8:23 am |
    • martin

      You are part of the problem, not the solution. Until parents do a better job, only allow the kids who want to learn in that classroom setting. Bratty kids will not learn in a class of 25 or 35. If you would take the time and think, you would know this. But instead, you are sold a bill of politically correct goods

      December 7, 2011 at 8:40 am |
      • phoenix1920

        @ Martin: Absolutely right! Let's kick out those bratty kindergarteners who don't want to learn and are acting their age! Let's deny education to kids who are not motivated enough to learn on their own (which is what happens in classrooms of 34 students–teachers can't answer all those pesky questions if they want finish each lesson). What industry possibly wants educated workers? I'm sure that children who are kicked out because they are not taking their education seriously will be perfect law-abiding citizens. Not to mention, my tax dollars will be lower . . . until the kids of such a great policy wind up in jail

        December 7, 2011 at 9:39 am |
      • Bootch

        I agree 100% Martin. You are not a moronic right wing ideologue at all. You are obviously very clear thinking but I'm not sure you have gone far enough. While I agree with you that bratty children should be harshly punished for their parents' faults (perhaps they could be janetors at the Gingrich estate), we need to do more to ensure that no more bratty children are produces. Parents of bratty children need to be identified and sterilized to ensure an end of the propogation of all brats. The existing ones, if young enough to have tender meat, could be used in ragout recipes as suggested many years ago by Jonathon Swift. Martin for president.

        December 7, 2011 at 10:39 am |
      • Rolf

        You are right on the mark. Go and have a meal in a diner. Watch the great discipline and control that some young parents have. "Come here!", "Come here NOW!" are just a couple of things parents tell their children as they run around the diner. The parents are totally ignored. The children are used to ignoring their own mothers and fathers. There are no consequences either. One year I had a meeting with a parent( yes, I was a teacher for 42 years) who said, "I cannot control him. He's yours". What about the disillusioned mother who told me her 10 year old daughter was "going through a phase?" I gently told her that for the first three months of the school year, no other child exhibited this behavior. RESPECT? That's a goody. One day, many years ago my cardiologist said, "you teachers,etc.etc." I told my doctor that he could not have gotten to medical school if he failed second grade. I received an apology. Forty-two years. I learned a lot about people. The answers are only as complex as we allow them to be. Martin, it was a pleasure commenting on your comment. Rolf.

        December 11, 2011 at 1:36 am |
    • Donna

      I agree. I have been lucky enough in 18 years of teaching to have small classes of 15 and classes of 34-37. Believe me, it makes a huge difference. When a class gets larger than 24, there's just not enough of me to go around in a 45-50 minute class period.

      December 7, 2011 at 8:44 am |
  29. ComSenseWiz

    A significant contributor to class size overcrowding, particularly so in California, is due to illegal aliens and anchor babies flooding into public school systems. Since the liberal educator types refuse to acknowledge the reality that there is not enough resources to educate those that should not be here, I and most others refuse to vote for any tax increases until the state "gets their mind right" on the illegal aliens problem. In other words, cut off the money until the delusional see the light.

    Here in San Francisco, a "Sanctuary City", no one I know sends their kids to public schools and we know many public school teachers and police officers all of whom send their kids to non-public schools without exception. In other words, one's kids here go to public schools only if poor or negligent. In our case, we pay $15K per year for our 2 kids each to go to high school while our taxes pay to educate 2 illegal aliens. What a deal! No chance I ever vote a single dime more in taxes until we clean the swamp of the illegal alien problem. There are many school districts in California where a majority of the students are either illegal aliens or anchor babies. This is outrageous.

    Our youngest will be out of high school come June of 2014 when our eldest graduates from Stanford. That is when we take our wealth and earning power to another state. We have had enough of underwriting the cost of out of hand illegal aliens.

    December 7, 2011 at 6:14 am |
    • Mary Askew

      In using the vulgar expression "anchor babies" you display an appalling ignorance: those children are American

      December 7, 2011 at 8:40 am |
    • Peter T

      Where has not paying enough taxes for the needs of a society approaching 2012? Take a look and see the disaster. Think segregating yourself from the poor will have long-term positive results? Then you have learned nothing from the past. You reap what you sow!!!

      December 7, 2011 at 11:52 pm |
  30. JoeT

    Class size matters, but apparently not as much as not paying taxes for smaller class size, or reallocating taxes from some other government department in favor of education.

    December 7, 2011 at 5:59 am |
  31. Miranda W

    Class size does matter. Just 20 years ago the major goal in education was getting class sizes down. Now we refuse to spend money on schools, so we adjust the statistics and pretend that it does not matter. It does. In every class there are a couple of students (usually you can count on one hand) that could learn anywhere, literally. But it is not the majority. In addition, we are finding out that there are many more students with learning disabilities than we had ever imagined. Many never did well in school or were discouraged, instead of being helped. They went on to do jobs that did not take a lot of schooling. However, this is not really the best use of our resources. People should do the job they are born for, not the job they can get.
    Also, these days there are many more children with "huge" problems at home. Adults have a lot of trouble leaving their problems at home – can you imagine how children cope with that? They come to school hungry, dirty, with little sleep. Many have parents so strung out on drugs that they don't give the kids any type of good supervision. But is it enough that you can send in child services? Not usually. What you "know" is not enough for court.
    Then there are the kids who have serious disabilities that we send to regular schools now – at a high cost. And the money for that is taken from the regular budget for the other 99%. So yes, class size does matter.
    I have taught at a private school where I had six students one year and fifteen the next. We accomplished much more the first year. I personally helped the two, of the six that had a difficult time with some of the assignments. Everyone ended up doing very well. It carried over ( I still know one of the students and he is a better student still five years later).

    December 7, 2011 at 3:16 am |
    • Pattysboi

      Absolutely class size matters! When I was in 6th grade, in about 1968, there were 36 kids in our class. They split the class, the 12 highest academic kids went to another room.

      Not being of the highest academic standing, I still couldn't get the help and instruction that I knew I needed.

      December 7, 2011 at 4:24 am |
  32. AGuest

    I graduated with multiple honors, worked in the private sector, then earned a Masters in Education. I have been chosen for grants and fellowship programs. I have 15 years of experience and work 60 hours a week (with children of my own to care for, mind you). Hopefully that makes me qualified to say that class size DOES matter. No matter how good a teacher is, we are still human, and it is not humanly possible to give students the individualized attention they need in order to give them a good education.

    December 7, 2011 at 12:47 am |
    • Amal

      I absolutely agree. When I see my students' results, I wonder how many of them scored so low because I wasn't able to give them the time or attention they needed. Class size definitely matters. I teach English abroad and students definitely miss out when the class has 40 or more students.

      December 7, 2011 at 1:24 am |
  33. lucky eddie

    from what i read, the size of the classrooms is an issue with the teachers and not with the students.
    it's the teachers who can't keep up. the students are just fine. i

    December 7, 2011 at 12:16 am |
    • mick

      Comments like that are invariably from someone whohas never been a teacher. That's like saying the bulls don't complain only the bullriders.

      December 7, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
    • Peter T

      The plethora of intelligent messages like those about students not complaining, is from people who do not take the time to actually listen to students.

      December 7, 2011 at 11:55 pm |
    • 2nd grade teacher

      Your opinion is obviously so valid because you have such good writing skills. My students know that they need to capitalize their sentences. Elementary and middle school students can't complain about class sizes because they aren't cognitively developed enough to see beyond their own personal lives. We are talking about education. A large social issue. High school students are more able to complain about class sizes but not very likely. If they are anything like me they are just trying to get by. I went through school in overcrowded LA schools and had to fend for myself in the education system. Comments like yours just show the failure in the education system. I think you need smaller class sizes. You are so ignorant.

      December 10, 2011 at 10:51 am |
  34. Marilynn

    Stop letting the school buildings sit empty, no School from June thru August/September? Why? Spring break? Because YOU remember your spring break and wasn't that fun? Hire some teachers and send the kids to school, offer them on-line classes for highschool – maybe even middle school – during the summer, (mine took on-line english during the summer-it happen to be available, also Gym before the freshman year started, yes, volunterely)

    December 7, 2011 at 12:09 am |
    • Sham

      Well, I go to Forest Hills High School and I know for a fact that they use the winter breaks along with others breaks in order to tutor kids. They don't ever let the school be empty.

      December 9, 2011 at 10:09 pm |
  35. Morbus

    Haimson is either flat-out lying, or doesn't have a clue what the research shows. Research has shown that smaller class sizes do NOT improve outcomes for normal students. It should be obvious why: normal students (normal IQ, no psychological problems) do not need a lot of individual attention. Class size matters when you have students with impairments, and only then.

    December 7, 2011 at 12:06 am |
    • a guest

      you are clearly not a teacher.

      December 7, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
    • Peter T

      Which research specifically? Was the material peer-edited? Or is it typical of uniformed opinion being stated as fact. Finally research does not "prove" anything. Research only states that a certain study, at a certain time, under certain conditions had results that were more consistent with one hypothesis or another. Therefore, there is nothing that is actually "proven".

      December 7, 2011 at 11:59 pm |
  36. Bill

    I hate to shock everyone, but at the Catholic parochial school I attended in the 1950's, we had an average of fifty students in each classroom. We all went on to a public high school in the same town. Across the board the parochial students were the best students in the high school. Fifty students worked because of classroom discipline. We were all required to sit, listen and do the lessons. The nuns were dedicated beyond anything seen today by unionized teachers. Not one teaching nun slacked off, complained or gave up on a troubled student. One thing about the high school teachers of that era. They were not unionized either, but, they gave it their all and were completely dedicated to teaching. I have nothing but praise for all of the teachers of that time. The difference in teaching/learning today is the same difference as seen in society. Parents do not support the teachers on the front line. Administrators do not have the support of voters, so they lean on the teachers. Parents do not discipline their children and hold them accountable for breaking school/society rules. So, it goes on – – down hill.

    December 6, 2011 at 11:50 pm |
    • Rich

      Well said. I am a math teacher in the public school system. My three boys all attend Catholic schools. I believe that the quality of education in the Catholic schools is very high due to the commitment of the students, teachers, parents, and administration. This is not the case in the schools that I have observed. When the classroom size is over 30, the total commitment of all involved in the education system is vital to the students' success. Additionally, I am saddened to report that the level of commitment from a fairly large portion of the parent base is much smaller than most would expect. Sports overshadows academics, and when a parent is contacted to suggest attending extra help sessions after school... often the parent will state that "Billy" can't miss football practice.

      December 8, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
  37. JoAnn

    Class size does matter very much! I am an English teacher, and I would love to have my students write essays every month to practice their skills. However, when I have 5 classes with 30+ students in each class, I cannot possibly grade all of the essays in a timely manner. Earlier in my career, I taught overseas in a private school. I had 3 classes with a maximum of 20 students. My students wrote EVERY month.

    December 6, 2011 at 9:05 pm |
    • GC

      Very true, that was probably the only issue I ran into with my larger classes... grading projects/papers. But also gathering enough resources for that many students can sometimes be a challenge too

      December 6, 2011 at 9:07 pm |
  38. GC

    I think class size does have an impact, but that impact is larger at the lower levels (k-5). At the elementary level students need to be able to grasp the concepts that will form the fundamentals for all future learning they will experience, a larger class can be detrimental to that.

    I have taught at both the high school and elementary levels, the difference is very clear. I had Government and History classes with 30-35 students (which is big for my area) and there were no issues, things went very smoothly. Currently I work in an elementary school where our largest class is 25 students. In that class it breaks down to 2-3 IEP's, 3 504 plans, and several students in counseling. Now to me 25 students isn't that large, but when you start to break it down to the individual students and what their needs are, sometimes 25 can seem like 50. And in k-5, if a student leaves a grade or the school lacking fundamental skills to build off, the impact that can have on the rest of their learning is huge.

    December 6, 2011 at 9:00 pm |
  39. Ben Muratovic

    Forest Hills is an amazing school and it's because of nothing more than it's teachers and staff. As a graduate of the School I often times go back to the school and help out and every teacher makes it their duty there to know the kids they see personally, even if they never had them as a student. When I was there we did face overcrowded classrooms beyond the 34 capacity and I can tell you that it didn't matter about that because good teachers know what they have to do

    December 6, 2011 at 8:56 pm |
  40. Postman

    Children who want to learn will do so in almost any environment. The students who will not do well in overcrowded classrooms are those who need to be pushed to learn. There's not enough forced motivation to go around.

    December 6, 2011 at 8:16 pm |
    • AGuest9

      The motivation needs to come from the home, not the school. At that point, the teacher can stand on their head and do tricks and the class won't notice.

      December 6, 2011 at 9:42 pm |
  41. joanna

    I've been hearing about small class sizes for years. I'm 28 and from as far back as I can remember, 30-40 kids per class from elementary through high school was the norm. I also recall having 40 kids in the class with no teachers aide not being much of a problem but then again, maybe I just kept getting lucky with being in classes with non disruptive kids.

    December 6, 2011 at 7:55 pm |
    • tao

      Then, how would you know the difference between what large and small class sizes are like?

      December 6, 2011 at 8:31 pm |
      • Burt Way

        To tao: Joanna did not say a word about small class size. She just told about her large class size experience and that she had "heard about" the small class size issue. Read the text..

        December 6, 2011 at 8:53 pm |
  42. erin

    Of course class size matters!! Anyone who says it doesn't knows NOTHING about education, nor have they stepped foot in a K-12 classroom in many, many years.
    Many "other countries" that people often refer to when complaining that the U.S. spends more on education do not educate the poor, the learning disabled, the emotionally damanged. We do, because that's the kind of nation we are. That takes lots and lots of money. That's why we spend more, and why we need to spend A LOT more than we currently do on education if we want there to be any kind of future for our country.

    December 6, 2011 at 7:35 pm |
    • Jim

      Hey, erin, as a group who scores at the very bottom on the GRE? Give up? Education majors! Fat, dumb, glamorized babysitters should not be paid more than $25,000 per year. Bye fatty!

      December 6, 2011 at 7:44 pm |
      • AGuest9

        What did you score on YOUR GRE, Jim?

        December 6, 2011 at 9:44 pm |
      • FatDumbGlamorizedBabysitter

        I scored in the top 99 percentile on the Math and Reading of the GRE, and I got a perfect 6 on the writing.

        I teach.

        Just as a thought, try doing something else with your life besides emitting carbon dioxide...

        December 7, 2011 at 12:25 am |
      • Teacher

        I'm another teacher who kicked butt on the GRE as did most of the future teachers in my credential program years ago. Are you going to make fun of the engineering major with pathetic GRE verbal scores Jim? Are they glamorized lego builders? List your profession and alleged GRE scores.

        December 7, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
      • Peter T

        You sir is the epitome of what is wrong with society. $25K/year getting close to 2012? 25K was a half decent salary 20 years ago. Perhaps minimum wage is what you make, and now exhibiting the symptom called SOUR GRAPES.

        December 8, 2011 at 12:14 am |
    • FatDumbGlamorizedBabysitter

      Class size doesn't necessarily matter in terms of regular student performance on standardized tests. Example: my largest class last year (about 32 students) had 100% passing. My smallest class (about 12 students) had about 50% passing. They were the same kids, randomly distributed between the two classes based on scheduling availability. A lot of times larger classes do better because the kids rely more on their own potential and each other instead of the teacher (at least at the high school level). Less dependence on the teacher = more self-sufficiency = higher test scores.

      But, if you want to talk about actually having an influence in kids' lives, making a positive impact, teaching character and work ethic.... smaller classes tend to work better.

      Just depends on what's important to the politicians.

      December 7, 2011 at 12:30 am |
      • FatDumbGlamorizedBabysitter

        Also, there's been no demonstrated correlation to date between amount spent per student and student performance.

        Rather than find more money to spend on education, we need to learn how to educate more efficiently.

        I'm all for having a printer in my room and tons of resources, but at the end of the day, I just want my kids to contribute to society. If it has to be done without a projector and extra copy paper.... I'll figure it out.

        December 7, 2011 at 12:33 am |
  43. Jim

    Class size doesn't matter for Whites and Asians, but everyone else needs a one-to-one student-teacher ratio and a social worker.

    December 6, 2011 at 6:51 pm |
    • erin

      Apparrently it mattered for you, because you managed to miss out on the lessons about not being a racist bigot.

      December 6, 2011 at 7:23 pm |
      • John

        What's racist about it? It's true

        December 7, 2011 at 1:15 am |
      • FatDumbGlamorizedBabysitter

        It's true because of the culture that's in power. If a different culture were in power, the whites and asians would be the ones struggling. People don't take culture into consideration when thinking about how students will perform in schools. The fact that minorities tend to slip through is more a consequence of social construct than it is a consequence of effort and ability.

        December 7, 2011 at 1:42 am |
      • Ginger315

        Statistically this is true. It has everything to do with culture, a culture that does not respect hard work, has few heros and would rather get rich quick gang's that culture that requires a 1 on 1 warden type system.

        December 10, 2011 at 10:54 pm |
  44. Elaine

    I graduated from Forest Hills High School 41 years ago. The school was on triple session then with large class sizes so it seems that nothing has changed. The school was known for excellence in a middle class environment so that has remained constant as well. As a retired educator I give credit to the principal for continuing to promote success.

    However, it is MUCH easier to help children learn in a non-poverty situation such as Forest Hills High. Additionally,even the best teachers cannot give the same amount of attention and assistance to each student when they have 34 students rather than 25. That is simple math!

    December 6, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
  45. John

    You never hear Obama or any member of Congress really take about how we have let of future down. Every time you ask a politician about schools. All they say is we need more money. But the money is apparently never spent as it should be. Lot's of Countries spend less then the US per child and have much better results. Maybe its because the teachers are teaching smaller classes and they do not have administrators getting CEO salaries when their school system is one of the worst.
    My wife a teacher has 30 kids in her class and some of them of special needs kids. Now tell me how average to above average kids can learn at the speed they need to, when special needs kids slow the whole process down? We need to develop a majority of kids who can lead this nation down the road. We are already falling way behind. We need to stop this process of no child left behind. Some people will have to be left behind so the majority are not.

    December 6, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
    • eliminate the bullies

      John, the kids that keep everybody down in both literal and figurative ways are the dumbf-cks who are "normal" but averse to learning. These kids disrupt classes and stifle participation and desire to learn in everybody every time they sneer "nerd!", "geek!", "teacher's pet" or the worst of all: "why you bein' so white?" (for the black dumbf-ck bullies out there). If the very sentiment that led to people to proudly affix bumperstickers that read: "My kid beat up your honor student" was finally stamped out, kids would learn in almost any classroom situation.

      December 6, 2011 at 8:04 pm |
      • riley

        Agree. A kid with below average intelligence who has a desire to learn is better in a class than the average kid who doesn't want to be there and disrupts all other learning. I do agree that it makes no sense to group everyone in the same class based on age. A 9 year old could be grade 6 in Math, grade 3 in English and grade 4 in Science. Why should each 9 year old be forced to progress at the same rate as the entire class. It keeps those who could progress faster back and those who need extra time from becoming proficient. My sister took her accelerated child out of regular public school and enrolled him in an online public school that pretests and assigns grade level per subject. He went from bored and not interested in school to learning at a pace that kept him interested.

        December 6, 2011 at 11:22 pm |
    • Dan, TX

      I really think we should fail the students who don't master the material. That would be a large fraction of students and lower economic status people (disproportionately minority students) would make up a large fraction of those who failed. However, those that continued on would have excellent learning environments and outcomes regardless of economic, cultural, or social status. But what do we do about those who failed? I don't know the answer.

      December 6, 2011 at 10:32 pm |
      • FatDumbGlamorizedBabysitter

        So, you understand that your plan would be based on a social construct. You accomplish nothing by doing that besides stoking discrimination.

        Assuming every student of any race is born with the same brain (on average) and the same potential (on average), and yet only the minorities fall through the cracks.... clearly the problem is with the system, not the people. One culture is not better than another.

        December 7, 2011 at 1:03 am |
  46. Mr. Myxlptlkx


    December 6, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
  47. Oliver Warders

    ThIs is my school here. I deal with it for now until they decide to do what they feel is more nessesary.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
  48. bazbo

    Some of the fixes for education are not rocket science. Younger students need smaller classes, as students get older (middle school/high school) class size can increase. Have you ever tried to get a class of 15-20 children that are 4 to 8 years old to sit and learn for 6 hours? Part of the issue in education is parent involvement (or lack there of), schools have kids for about 30 hours a week. Parents have them 138 hours.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • senoy

      Schools have them for 35 hours a week. Transportation and waiting for classes to begin adds another 5-10 hours a week. Here, they leave at 730 and get back at 430. They sleep for 10 hours a night. Getting ready for school in the morning is essentially a wasted hour a day as well. Actual real time with my child is from 430 to 800 and on weekends between 7 AM and 8 PM at bed time. So, I get 26 hours on weekends and another 17.5 during the week. I get 8 more hours a week than the school. This does not include extracurricular activities including sports, clubs and after school programs and homework that all come out of parents' time. Kids are so booked, that parents are lucky to see them for more than an hour a night during the week. Let's face facts, the system is raising our children. Parents are more and more being forced to be bystanders, but they get the blame. Sure, parents need to step up, but the schools are failing just as much as the parents.

      December 6, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
      • Greg

        Good reply for a counter-argument that the school shouldn't be raising our children, but..

        As a father of a 4 and 6 year old who really cares and works with my kids. I can tell you that its night and day from the parents that don't do anything.

        So I agree that the school does need to take some responsibility when the "who raises our kids" issue is brought up. But for the most part, teachers and schools are held up to at least some standards. While parents' standards are up to the parent. I know many, many, many parents that should not be raising kids.

        December 6, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
      • YOU are the parent

        Senoy, if you realize your quality time with your children is reduced significantly by overscheduling, STOP SIGNING THEM UP FOR STUFF. As a formerly overscheduled child, I still fiercely resent my parents for forcing me to be booked from the time I woke at 5:40 AM to the time I collapsed at 10:30 PM grades 9-12. That was 20 years ago and I'm still steamed. Soccer practice shouldn't be a babysitter for you, nor should anything else. Activities are good but so is some free time and time with the parental units. YOU are the parent and YOU decide what activities are ok and how much time is spent on them. Don't pass that buck.

        December 6, 2011 at 8:12 pm |
  49. Solex

    I tend to be a realist and all of these "Throw the illegals out of school". Sorry folks, but if these kinds were born here (and many of them were) then they are LEGAL and IT IS AGAINST THE LAW TO REMOVE THEM FROM SCHOOL unless their parents intend to home school them...

    Stop with the race and hate and look for ways to SOLVE problems rather then complain about them.

    December 6, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
    • FatDumbGlamorizedBabysitter

      The "illegals" score higher for me on standardized tests, work harder, and are more respectful with the teachers than the kids that were born here. You want to raise the level of school performance, don't kick the good kids out. Jus' sayin'....

      December 7, 2011 at 1:07 am |
  50. tidho

    Rather than throwing good money after bad by treating symptoms, lets address the cause. In many districts its 2nd language students. Illegals should be removed from the system, and we should invest in early education for legals so that they aren't a drain on our resources throughout their academic careers.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
    • Anna

      How exactly are the ELL students the problem?

      December 6, 2011 at 8:56 pm |
    • FatDumbGlamorizedBabysitter

      ELL students tend to work harder than mainstream students. Quit being insensitive and consider the idea that your race is not the end all be all. Ethnocentrism is part of why our schools fail.

      December 7, 2011 at 1:09 am |
  51. X


    December 6, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
    • dabble53

      It isn't a case of MORE teachers, it's a case of BETTER teachers.
      What job (besides politician) are you not subject to annual (if not more) review by supervisors and your job on the line? Teachers. It's one job where it is not merit based.
      Pay the really good teachers more, and throw out the poor ones, just like any other job.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
      • Tracie

        Teachers do have regular reviews by a supervisor, at least in the two states where I have taught. If there are problems the teacher has to work with the supervisor to improve. We have yearly goals that we have to write down each fall and then go over them with a supervisor in the spring. We have to take classes in order to renew our teaching certificates. The problem with paying teachers on merit is that there is not a way to evaluate teachers across the board. How can you rely on tests scores when students aren't tested on foreign languages, for example. How is the foreign language teacher going to be evaluated? How do you rely on test scores for math and English when high school students take math and English from several different teachers?

        December 6, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
      • optingout

        Where did you get the idea that teachers are not evaluated? If anything, our daily lives are under a microscope, and we submit annual portfolios and undergo observations just like any other professional.

        December 6, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
      • fabkiwi06

        What makes a good teacher? Test scores? Involvement? Lesson Plans? Knowing the right people to get extra funding for the school? Likewise, what makes a good parent? Is it how much time you spend with your kids? The opportunities you give them?

        I succeeded in school because my parents and my teachers were both involved in my education and they would work together when needed. I strive to do that with my students and their parents as well. Yes, there are some bad teachers and parents out there; just as there good, and many who are mean well but are just overburdened by the system. You're only as strong as your weakest link.

        December 6, 2011 at 11:05 pm |
    • Solex

      Except for how to pay for it – The best minds we have can't seem to figure that part out.

      December 6, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
    • X-tra

      The rocket science isn't in knowing that we need to build more classrooms and hire more teachers, it's getting the taxpayers to fund the costs. But of course they won't reasoning that school boards aren't doing what they need to do now to educate kids, so why give them more money to build classrooms and hire teachers since they aren't doing that already. Yes, a weird v,icious little circular reference

      December 6, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
  52. James

    During college, I was in a Thermodynamics class with three (3) other students. The professor's lectures didn't follow along with the text. During the last six weeks of the class, the professor essentially tossed the book out the window and decided to wing it. Nobody could grasp the concepts he was trying to teach. I believe I had the highest final grade with a B-. Fortunately for those classes that followed mine, the professor left the college the next year.

    Even small classes can result in poor student performance if the professor is unable to teach.

    December 6, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
    • dabble53

      I almost thought we were classmates there....but in my thermo class, there were 5 others. LOL

      December 6, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
    • Craig

      You cannot relate college professors to teacher. Most professors have not been trained in education...they are experts in their subjects areas...not in how to effectively deliver it

      December 6, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
      • retiredprof

        Craig is correct. University professors are hired based on content knowledge, not education knowledge. Research universities evaluate faculty based on publications made and grants received not quality teaching. Teaching colleges do a better job of quality teaching, but most of the professors still have not had education courses. As an example, I was always showing new hires how to evaluate their own exams to discover where their teaching, as opposed to the students' learning, was the weak link.

        December 6, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
    • teaching vs testing

      Well, my graduate biochemistry class had perhaps 25 students and exams frequently had student averages in the 20th percentiles. We frequently were unable to discern what the actual questions were. Nevertheless, I certainly learned a great deal and the across-the-board low exam scores had no real impact. Despite scary exams, a lot of content was sucessfully imparted and I found myself well prepared for the next steps in my career. The faculty taught well and tested poorly. No big deal.

      December 6, 2011 at 8:21 pm |
  53. Greg

    Personally, I think they need to bring education into the 21nd century.

    I think as the article implies with the study on decreasing class size for younger kids increases their test scores makes sense. I think we do that, but also teach kids self motivation, and self discipline and put those on the top shelf for development roles.

    Then as kids get older, they receive much less "teacher time" and are expected to be more motivated.

    Then technology comes into play. Use the already available tools to build an environment where kids can have access to help. Through monitored online peer groups. Through school regulated portals where you can say talk to a student from China to improve your Chines, while they do the same for English. To standardized classes where things like math and science are taught by one teacher for millions.

    Encourage more home schooling with web classes. There are stay at home parents that would like this.

    Maybe all my ideas not great, or achievable, but I know without a doubt that the education system needs a revamp, and a whole different way of thinking.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
    • Greg

      lol 21st*

      December 6, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
    • Greg

      Ugg, sorry, I am not retarded, just type slower than I think :). I hope you can all make sense of it. When I re-read it, I see my mistakes.

      December 6, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
    • Lolololol

      I don't really know Greg. I agree, kids should be able to use the resources available to them. However, I think as time marches on and we move even further into the Facebook age, we are going to realize that these kids aren't learning the social skills you and I may have had the luxury of learning. With all of the social disorders/learning disabilities out there today, I think we are doing a disservice to our children by isolating from the world.

      December 6, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
      • Greg

        Yeah ,maybe.

        But if I remember right, middle and high school were not always the be places to learn social skills. In fact, I would argue that I learned social skills that were counter productive.

        I am not saying the "old school" way of thinking is wrong, but I do think that the older generation is a little blinded by nostalgia.

        And kids are not as a whole worse than the were 30 years ago. We just have video cameras on our cell phones and a media that likes to sensationalize things. So it just looks worse.

        But, I guess I would like to see some studies that compared kids of today with kids of the 1950s.

        December 6, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
      • Greg

        *best place to learn.

        And I shouldn't say "We" in reference to "kids." I am 33. I think though, that I am the generation that was the last to remember a world without cell phones, and the internet, yet was young enough that it seems natural.

        December 6, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
      • Lolololol

        Lol kids are just staying kids a bit too long. Teenage angst is a biproduct of kids entering adulthood but since our society still treats them as children, you often find yourself dealing with irresponsible behavior. You have to remember, we aren't wired to treat kids as kids after the age of 15. Wasn't too long ago this was when you were in your prime and life was half over 😉 What is even scarier is a new phenomena called "emerging adulthood," where we are seeing males in their late 20's-early 30's finally taking their first steps as, what society deems to be, a responsible adult role. The expectation of 12 years of schooling + the newly founded expectation of college which, if completed successfully, takes most 5-6 years, you are left with kids not fully becoming their own person until the age of 24. Wasn't but 30 years ago you would often find high school educated folks in the work force at age 18 earning a livable wage doing "respectable" work... That is a rarity these days....

        December 6, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
  54. jay

    Fred has it right and he has it wrong. Size does not matter, becasue what matters is the kids you have in the classroom. If I have 40 kids, (not advanced by any means) that are close to being on level I will have no problem. Now give me 15 kids in a class, where all of them have been left back and on average three grade levels behind; then I'm still in trouble no matter how small the size of the class. See these kids need one-on-one instruction they are so low, no way in an hour and 10 min of class can I give a lesson, an assignment, and sit with all of them and help them. Fred the kids today are worse than the kids in the 70's because of single parent homes, fall in morality, and drop in adult education even further by lower income homes. In these same classes I also have all the special education students, dyslexia, and emotionally disturbed (you can thank the bright law makers in Washington who have never taught for that one) How is a techer to get it done?

    December 6, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
    • no more bullies

      What is "emotionally disturbed"? Do you mean kids who are mentally and psychologically paralyzed because their bullies are also present in class and waiting to pounce on them? Every time the teacher calls on the "disturbed" student to answer a question, it prompts a barrage of audible disparaging remarks or outright threats? I'd find that extremely disturbing and if I ever become a teacher, I'd squash every single attempt by a student to disparage another and thereby extinguish learning in all students who hear these comments. Squash the bullies and your "emotionally disturbed" students will blossom into highly motivated, bright students who will never give you problems.

      Jay, be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem. The buck stops in your classroom with you.

      December 6, 2011 at 8:31 pm |
      • everyone knows something

        @ no more bullies, there are emotionally disturbed students sitting in classes disturbing the instruction of others. Students do have emotional disabilities. Examples: ever bi-polar disorders, OCD, major depression, schizophrenia, to name a few. Some students have such anger issues (rooted in what has happened to them in their 8-10 years on earth) that they throw and fight. While we want to be inclusive, these students do disturb the learning of others. We need to help these kids, but the average teacher is not trained to deal with such issues, (nor should they be). This is outside the scope of teaching. It's medical.

        As far as a bullies go, a bully is sneaky. A bully isn't someone who outwardly bullies in front of teachers. It's very much under the radar, and that is what is hard. It's easy to say what you would do if you became a teacher, but it's very different when you are there. Don't be so fast to point the fingers as someone who is in the trenches with the kids. Walk a day in their shoes and you may feel differently.

        December 6, 2011 at 9:29 pm |
      • 2nd grade teacher

        The term "emotionally disturbed" is an actual legal term for some students with an IEP (Individual Education Plan as opposed to the SEP or Student Education Plan that is applied to the majority of students). It basically means that they have so many emotional issues that it affects their ability to learn. When I taught 1st grade I had a student that was "emotionally disturbed." His parents were meth addicts and he moved in with his aunt and uncle while his parents were in jail. Then his aunt and uncle got divorced and his uncle's girl friend moved in and had a baby. All of this happened in one year. The student in my class had a lot of emotional problems and severe behavior problems but no academic problems. It is just a term used to qualify a student for resources with the school councilor or other school resources that would otherwise be rejected.

        December 10, 2011 at 11:33 am |
  55. Sue

    Not only does class size matter but overall teacher load matters. We have teachers at the high school level with over 40 students per class for 5 classes. That means their load is over 200 students. It makes it very difficult to grade that many English or SS papers and give the feedback that good teachers want to do. There is an increase of parents e-mailing so with 220 students that e-mailing eats into grading time.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
  56. fred

    Class size does not matter and never has. The whole idea is a wide-ranging plan by the teachers mafia/union to hire as many teachers and "para" professionals as possible. This crap has been going on for decades but has gotten much worse over the last 10-15 yrs. 30 kids in a class with one teacher worked just fine back in the 1960s/70s/80s when I was in school. I was no brain surgeon, but I learned like the rest of the class. Stop treating every kid like they are SPECIAL. YOU'RE NOT SPECIAL. Everyone is equal and gets the same education, sitting in the same classroom, with the same teacher, with the same books. My wife is a NYC Special Ed teacher and she has 4 other adults in the room screwing up, talking and getting in her way all day long. She can teach the kids just fine. It s the dopey "paras" that screw up the classroom. 25-30 kids is reasonable. If they need 'extra attention' they need to get help after school, on lunch recess, before school and at home. And the kids need to step up and work harder.

    December 6, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
    • chance

      I'm a teacher. I agree 30 kids per class is reasonable. We have science classes with over 40, remediation math classes with 35, exploratory classes with well over 40. No one is complaining because of 30 per class, trust me, we would be thrilled if that were the case. Please know your numbers before you rant. I'd appreciate it, at least.

      December 6, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
    • Teacher in Iowa

      I would have given anything to have only had 30 kids on my roster at my old job... I had kids sitting on the floor if they all happened to show up that day. Thirty is perfectly reasonable, but when it's 40? No way. I had a colleague with 48 on a roster once. How in the world can I give meaningful feedback when grading essays to that many kids? Forty kids each in 5 classes? I'd love to reach that many kids, but I have to sleep and eat at some point as well. It's very difficult to make that personal connections that kids benefit from. As for kids working harder, its not quite as easy as it seems. Many of my students have to work to help support their family; they can't always stay after. I have a duty during lunch so I can't meet then. Many of their parents either just don't care or are unable to help at home for a variety of reasons. The fact of the matter is that the kids we teach today are very different from the kids taught 30 years ago. We can't teach them using the same old mechanisms we used to; they don't work anymore. You can't just blame it on the kids; many of them do their best.

      December 6, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
    • David

      Thank you for clarifying that "you are no brain surgeon." If you had said you were unemployed because you were under skilled I would have bought that as well, judging from your post. Class size does matter when there are too many students for the teacher to teach them "properly". Being uneducated you can't see the difference between "proper education" and just any old education. Educators know the difference, but people don't listen to them because people like you think they are saying that just to get more teachers. It's a shame that uneducated people like you get an equal vote with people who really know what they are talking about. Sadly, there are more under educated than there are educated...probably from class sizes being too may also be inherited.

      December 6, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
      • beachgal

        Freshman year in college, these kids are in stadium seating.
        I think the mix of the students will determine what size works. We always had 30 students (70's and 80's).
        We also had corporal punishment and no helicopter parents. Teachers were not that great, but taught the material at hand. Somehow we all graduated high school and college. Not sure what happened after the 80's.

        December 6, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
      • umm

        Beachgal – Yes, they do have stadium seating, but the teacher also does not have to babysit the students. They have to pull their own weight, unlike high school where the teachers are expected to be second parents.

        December 6, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
      • responsibilities

        Beachgal, by the time people are accepted into university, that educational offering is voluntary and people pay handsomely for the priveledge of learning. Students are then 100% responsible for attending class, learning and asking questions if they have any. University professors are NOT parents or babysitters and students will get out what they invest in. In college, a good student will "learn how to learn" and will become nearly independant of their instructors, whatever their teaching proficiency may be. Students in the present day need to ditch their parents are realize that they are now responsible for all aspects of their lives and if they do a good job, they will reap the benefits. That is also the defining attribute of being an adult.

        December 6, 2011 at 8:47 pm |
    • Lolololol

      Two words.... Classroom Management....

      December 6, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
  57. Angel

    I think class size matters, the bigger the class the less individual attention the students get. Therefore the students might not get a chance to understand the lessons.

    December 6, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
    • JOSE0311USMC


      December 7, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
    • JOSE0311USMC


      December 7, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
    • JOSE0311USMC


      December 7, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
  58. QUEN10

    I think class size does matter. I prefer a smaller class room environment because my professor can get to know me on a personal basis and I feel like i can learn more in class by asking more questions and being more involved in lectures.

    December 6, 2011 at 11:32 am |
  59. Nancy

    Education needs to be a priority in this country not jobs. You can't get a job if you don't have the skills necessary to keep one. 80 % graduation rate at the over crowded school? What a joke. Graduated with what skills? Not the skills necessary to compete in the global world.

    December 6, 2011 at 8:30 am |
    • Marsha Wagner from Virginia

      Given the operating school buildings is so expensive. why not try two teachers in each classroom. They could work on a "tag team" approach and double the personal attention time for each student (which we can all agree is very important to each child's success} with all students in one bldg, the school could operate with one set of administrators, one set of lunch room staff, one set of custodians, etc. My daughter teaches 8th grade math so I know first hand the pressure for time she faces.

      December 6, 2011 at 8:49 am |
      • Teacher in Iowa

        So where do we get the $ to put two teachers in the classrooms? My district just RIFed 30-some people last year because of budget shortfalls.

        December 6, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
      • Lolololol

        @Teacher in Iowa- Cut administrative pay... Employ more teachers. That easy.... How many new teachers can you hire for an administrators pay? Close to 3 in some states...

        December 6, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
    • fred

      What you get out of school/education is determined by what you put in. Even the worst school on Harlem and the South Bronx have valedictorians gong to the best colleges on scholarships. Why can't the kids sitting next to Val do the same? It's not class size, that's for sure.

      December 6, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
      • Teacher in Iowa

        I've got to disagree with you Fred. Having taught both in a large urban district with 87% of my students eligible for free/reduced meals, and having then taught in a middle-class suburban school, As are not the same everywhere. An A in the urban district was the equivalent of a C in the suburban school. Being the valedictorian and getting a scholarship doesn't guarantee that the student can compete in college or maintain said scholarship.

        December 6, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
      • Laurel

        Sorry Fred – education looks very different across schools. I moved my daughter from one of the best public schools in our city to a Jesuit school several years ago. She was at the top of her class in public and it took her almost a year to catch up to the other kids in the new school. And the Jesuit school has kids from all sorts of different economic backgrounds, home situations, etc. All the kids are expected to do well. The teachers and administrators know all the kids and step in when grades change or something doesn't seem right with a kid. Teachers just can't do that in massive schools. Also, the Jesuit education focuses on critical thinking skills, deeply thinking through problems, and excellent writing. I'm a college professor at a top tier university and my HIGH SCHOOL Freshman daughter can outwrite many of our incoming university Freshman from the public schools. Sad but true.

        December 6, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
    • Julia


      Without jobs there will not be schools. Remember, all school systems in the U.S are not funded in the same manner. In areas where most school dollars come from the local economy and that economy has been impacted by citizen lost of employmeny or lack there of, then hiring teachers, building new schools will take a back seat. This is the way it is in the U.S. Solution: be cognizant of the political landscape and make your voice heard. As you are aware certain factions in this country want to tax the citizens and take away their representation– oh, didn't this same idea lead to the American Revolution?

      December 8, 2011 at 8:09 pm |