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Coastal Voices: Crowded classes 1 sign we are failing in schools

I need to respond to the Sept. 28 article, “Classes crowded at DNHS.” As a retired teacher of that school, I can attest to this.

“Normal” or “good” is not above 30 or 40 students per class. Multiply this by five classes a day, and that’s 150 to 200 students every day. The Harvard School of Education stated years ago that for effective learning, class size should not be above 20 students.

Where do students go? They drop out! We graduate about half of entering freshmen, but, “We don’t have a ‘drop-out’ problem.”

When I first started teaching at the high school, about 27 years ago, my Spanish classes had about 26 students. My sophomore English classes only had 20, because the state had found that if students remained in school past the 10th grade, they normally graduated, so the state subsidized the classes.

About seven to eight years ago, I taught Independent Study and needed to refresh Algebra. The class I audited was so large that I could not see all the screen or board. I was frustrated and dropped out.

Before I retired, I had wall to wall students; not having room for enough desks, I added chairs to my seating plan. I would assign these to students I thought were emotionally strong and give them extra credit.

With 200, or more, students a day, how can their needs be met? How much attention can they get? How much time can teachers spend on their work?

The ratio previously agreed to by the union, was not an ideal, but an attempt to accommodate  necessity,  but it seems there is no end with the district. How sad it is we spend about $5,000 a year per student to educate here, but the state will spend $58,000 per   year to keep a person in prison.

There are other factors that are affecting education. How about testing for visual perception? Approximately 15 percent of our population do not have eyes that facilitate reading; yet our district has not accepted this. Some cases could be remedied by  techniques as simple as using  colored  transparencies over reading material, or diagnosis and training by someone like Treasure Wheeler of the eye clinic in Medford. (Some of our students have benefited from these services, arranged for by their parents, and they can attest to the efficacy of the treatment.)

A student is not a bottle to be filled with reading, writing and arithmetic. What about the 17 (or more) other intelligences that aren’t being addressed? We no longer teach speech (the ancient Greeks saw the value of this); we’ve cut shop classes and the arts. These are essential to the development of the human person.

Then, there is the “elephant in the room” no one is talking about. The family and society has deteriorated and not providing structure and security for children.

We need to quit pretending we are doing all we can for the benefit of students and society. In addition, good people are not becoming teachers  because of the unrealistic stress and demands being placed on them.

Calie Martin is a Crescent City resident and a former schoolteacher.

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