I was at the information meeting for teachers yesterday evening at the CIESU multi purpose room, and after the presentation by DOE staff on Indiana’s Growth Model, Common Core Standards, A-F School Grading, Teacher Evaluations, Reading Framework, Curriculum Mapping, and Rules for Educator Preparation and Accountability (REPA), I asked Dr. Bennett this question: "Based on the data from the High School Survey on Student Engagement, significant numbers of students (67%) do not feel fully engaged under the existing educational paradigm. Students do report significant opportunities for engagement in subject areas like art and music. Last year, after the Governor cut education funding by 300,000,000 dollars we experienced significant program cuts to art and music programs across the state. My question to you is this: Does the Governor plan a new round of education budget cuts for next year?"
His answer was no, he did not foresee more budget cuts. However with the grim news that Indiana's revenue forecast were down again this past quarter, I have my doubts.
Dr. Bennett then took the first part of my question citing the HSSSE data on engagement, and the current educational paradigm and twisted my rationale. We must do things differently in order to re-engage our students was his reply. That provided him with an opening to support his initiative for more refined testing methods. My thoughts were, "no, we do not need more testing, but more refined methods and support for teachers to personalize and emotionally connect learning experiences to the heterogeneous populations of children who exist in our schools."
Dr. Bennett then listend to another teacher who stated that budget cuts were impeding her ability to provide individual attention to her students in her classroom because her school had not hired enough teachers and she was administering instruction to 29 students in her classroom. Dr. Bennett replied that class size does not matter. He knew of no research that supported the idea that class sizes impeded learning.
I disagree. The Project Star Research clearly demonstrated the optimum student teacher ratio is significantly lower than 29-1 and should be half of that number. Legislators and state education policy makers should be working toward ratios much lower than 29-1. Ratio's beyond that should be cause for concern.