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If a school asks, I’m happy to tell

Submitted by on Sunday, 4 October 2009 No Comment

Amidst the announcements about the fall carnival and the homework assignments this week came a blue sheet from the school district titled “Budget Survey.”

Among other things, it asked parents to rank 10 items in order of importance: Music, class size, sports, field trips, after-school tutoring, instructional aides in class, technology, summer school and physical education.

We’ve been lucky this year. As many districts have shed teachers left and right, eliminated busing and crammed as many kids as possibly into classrooms, ours has maintained. The only noticeable difference has been the possibility of losing field trips. Given what else is going on in California schools, it’s a small thing.

As I filled out the survey, I thought of three things: Which areas, if cut, would have the most direct impact on my child’s education, which areas could average parents reasonably pick up themselves if the schools had to cut programs and where’s the greatest social need.

I wound up ranking class size No. 1. The reason: day in, day out that area has the greatest influence in what goes on in a classroom. Does the teacher have time to offer one-on-one help, or does she spend a chunk of the day as traffic cop in charge of 30 kids.

Class-size reduction is controversial, and there are those who dismiss it as a scam by the teachers’ unions to create more jobs. On the other hand, part of that’s coming out of the Heritage Foundation, which has never met a union it’s liked.

Other research, however, shows definite and lasting impacts, especially when children are in smaller classes during their early years.

I ranked after-school tutoring second – kids who need help need it early and often – and technology third. I was tempted to add an extensive footnote here with the disclaimer that teachers need to be trained in how to use it and the district needs proper IT support or any money spent is wasted.

I ranked physical education fourth. Again, children at our school are fortunate to still have phys ed two days a week, with an actual phys ed teacher. He makes it fun, too, though Big Guy did gripe recently about having to do five push-ups.

With the obesity epidemic raging and so many kids held captive to television and video games, I view phys ed as crucial for society, now and in the future.

Things I ranked low that will have me swimming against the mainstream: Field trips, classroom aides and sports. I might have ranked the last higher if my kids were in secondary schools, where sports are a more important part of the school-social experience for many kids. Even then, though, I would have amended the category to say “sports and other extracurricular activities.”

I hope the district releases the results, because I think it would be interesting to how the collective ranked the priorities.

How would you rank them?

Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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