We should all be obliged to appear before a board every five years and justify our existence…on pain of liquidation. George Bernard Shaw
Gary Hatzell made an interesting comment at our library media specialist workshop last summer. He said something to the effect that cutting library positions really has little impact on class sizes. Something about this observation niggled at me. Not that I doubted Gary, but I did a little calculation for our own district.
We have approximately 4,100 elementary students, 178 classroom FTE elementary classroom teachers and 8 FTE elementary library media specialists. So the current mean class size is 23.03 students* (4,100/178).
If we replaced the 8 library positions with classroom teachers, we would get a mean class size of 22.04 (4,100/178+8) students per class. A class size reduction of .99 students. About less one kid per classroom.
A bigger difference than I thought. As a classroom teacher I vividly remember that every student means:
- one more student to supervise, counsel, guide, get to know
- one more set of papers, tests and quizzes to correct
- one more set of copies to make
- one more line in the gradebook
- one more attendance to account for
- one more set of parent-teacher conferences
- one more set of data to analyze
- one more bit of planning time, thought and care about how that individual can be reached
- one more voice to listen to and one more set of problems to help solve
So here is my question: Do teachers see you adding a student's worth of value in their classrooms? Does your presence balance the extra work each body in a classroom creates? Do teachers see your value in:
- Creating independent readers (that raise test scores)?
- Teaching technology and research skills (taking some important curriculum off their plates)?
- Providing time for planning (fixed schedule)?
- Providing immediate in-building tech support and training?
- Adding constructive teaching materials, methods and ideas to a teacher's toolkit?
I heard some very ugly, ugly budget numbers predicted for our state and district at a meeting this morning. There is a distinct possibility that we may need to make double the (very painful) amount of cuts we've made over the past two years just next year. The question like the one above is a hard one to ask - for librarians, for tech specialists and even for tech directors.
But ignoring reality is harder come budget crunch time. And I am afraid it is coming.
*Because of funding formulas, attendance areas, etc., our class sizes actually range from between about 17 to 31 students. Like in most schools, I am sure.