18 July 2010

Success by the wrong measure

As you’ll discover fairly quickly in reading a Telegram story on class sizes, the idea of capping the number of students per class is aimed at improving student achievement:  more of them will pass;  they’ll get higher grades; that sort of thing.

In other words, by giving each classroom teacher fewer students to work with, you improve the chances that each student will do better in school.  You can measure that a number of ways, one of which would be the national testing administered in Grades Three, Six and Nine.

So it is more than a bit odd that the very first sentence in the story says this:

School enrolment numbers suggest the provincial government's plan to cap class sizes has been mostly successful.

The number of students in a school isn’t a measure of success for capping the size of classrooms.  It’s one of the things that can influence the outcome  - better performance by each student – and it is a factor that varies despite the efforts of school administrators.

After all, as the story acknowledges, “[f]rom June to September, for example, a lot of things can change, he said. Children can move away from a certain school or a certain area; children can move into an area.”

So this story doesn’t do anything but tell us all that the people working at school boards managed to put enough teachers in classrooms to hit a target ratio of students to teachers.

That’s nice but it doesn’t really mean they achieved the goal, which, you may recall, was about ensuring students did better in school.

Where’s the measure of that?

- srbp -