News

School board meets tonight on class size cuts

Management raises also up for discussion

The Pleasanton school board will meet tonight to consider three alternatives to reducing class sizes for early elementary school students over the next few years.

No decision is set to be made tonight, but the board will hear about plans that would reduce class sizes either in the 2015-16 school year, the 2016-17 school year or in the 2018-19 year.

The first plan would work gradually, keeping class sizes at 25-1 for first graders and include second graders in the 2015-16 school year, cut class sizes to 25-1 for third graders the next year and bring all students to 25-1 in 2016-17. Class sizes would be cut to 24-1 for all students the following year.

Scenario two would keep first graders at 25-1, then gradually reduce class sizes to 25-1 for all other classes by 2018-19

Under the third plan, class sizes for first through third graders would be cut to 25-1 in 2015-16, with class sizes for kindergartners going from 30-1 to 25-1 in the 2016-17 school year.

The main difference between the three scenarios is the cost. Cutting class sizes to 25-1 in the 2015-16 school year under the third alternative would cost $9.7 million by the 2018-19 school year, nearly $2 million more than the second alternative. Gradually reducing class sizes over time would cost just shy of $8.2 million.

All three scenarios would also eliminate staggered reading over time -- in the 2018-19 school year under the first alternative, in the 2019-20 school year in the second and in the 2017-18 school year in the third.

The board will also consider giving management and confidential employees a one-time bonus of 1% of salary and a 1.1% raise, the same deal the school board approved for both its unions. The compensation package would cost the district $170,000.

The board will also hear a report on enrollment, which has been trending slightly down for elementary and high school students but up in middle schools.

The school board meets at 7 p.m. tonight in the district board room, 4665 Bernal Ave.

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by kbenson
a resident of Bordeaux Estates
on Oct 22, 2013 at 10:58 am

Why do tomorrow, what you can do today.

Cut class sizes NOW. Classrooms CURRENTLY overcrowded. Teachers cannot give equal attention when the class is so big. Stop screwing around with the broken issue and creating bogus meetings. Fix it now. Reduce classroom sizes today, so that the kids can be better leaders tomorrow.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by john
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 22, 2013 at 6:26 pm

I agree with kbenson above. What are we waiting for? Reduce class sizes now.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Cholo
a resident of Livermore
on Oct 23, 2013 at 5:28 pm

Not so fast...unless it's clear that once the class sizes are reduced, that non-english children receive top priority.

That's how they can become productive American citizens.

i rest my case...


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Me
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 23, 2013 at 6:07 pm

Next thing you know the school board will use class size a reduction to justify their secret plan to move the district to a modified school year - mark my words. Kiss you summer vacations goodbye!!!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by lawsuits 'r us
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 23, 2013 at 6:20 pm

I think you are right.

The schools are so overcrowded at the elementary level that they don't have enough classrooms to get back to 20 students per class for K-3 if they wanted to. They would need portables everywhere.

So they'll say, let's have a modified all year school calendar with different tracks and switch in and out different tracks of students. That will mean, of course, the citizens will have to file a lawsuit against PUSD to stop their all year school calendar.

PUSD loves lawsuits. That is what they live for.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Nomad
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 23, 2013 at 7:35 pm

Cholo - what do you mean by 'top priority'?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Chemist
a resident of Downtown
on Oct 24, 2013 at 11:46 am

We should be talking about reducing administration size and salaries. Oh, I forgot, we just increased all the salaries and hired new administrators. Now, of course, we do not have any money to hire new teachers to teach smaller classes. So, let's scrape a couple hundred thousand bucks together to launch Measure F. This School Board is a joke.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Joe
a resident of Ruby Hill
on Oct 24, 2013 at 1:02 pm

This is just a piece of the puzzle. What I would be interested to see is a long-term strategic plan from the school board and administration instead of piecemeal solutions that don't solve current problems or address future needs. What about re-districting to better balance school populations, new schools that will be needed if the new housing in Pleasanton is built (and it's a lot easier to build houses than schools), a third high school, funding for all of this. Bigger issues need to be addressed...


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jill
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 24, 2013 at 6:57 pm

Chemist, you hit the nail on the head. This administration has lost trust from the community by giving out raises to administrators then putting the money in the classrooms. The finance director decision was amazing with what we are paying her now, increasing retirement benefits, and increase the pay by the amount of the car allowance to trick the community into thinking that her car allowance went away, and training her to be a Superintendent, on our nickle. All at the same time while the district says we do not have enough money in the schools.

Knowing some of the school board members, it really concerns me when you see that some of the school board members have become best friends with the administrators. There is no way you can make objective, balanced decisions when you are best friends with the group you are supposed to be 'managing'. They are always going to approve raises for their friends instead of questioning it.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jill
a resident of Bonde Ranch
on Oct 25, 2013 at 8:30 am

Year round school should be the first priority. It will allow us to compete against other countries with high standards. Mohr School parents already have Saturday and Sunday school going.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Dan
a resident of Bridle Creek
on Oct 25, 2013 at 9:01 am

When I look at STAR/API test results from 2010-2013, I find that my local elementary school scores have remained unchanged. Don't know where it was at in 2008-2009

Does this not suggest that, at least anecdotally, that students have not been affected academically by having larger class sizes?

I sometimes think that the shrillness with which some display regarding this topic is geared more towards making the teachers life easier, while saying its "for the children".

Dan


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jill
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 25, 2013 at 3:10 pm

Classroom size reduction is pushed by the teacher's union. They feel that the smaller the classroom the easier it is for the teachers, but more importantly, the more teachers the district will need which increases the number of union members.

Studies have not shown that classroom size reduction is the best use of funds. Studies show there is a benefit to it but there are other things that can be done for less cost that will give equal output.

Anecdotally, I had two kids go through our local school system. One went through before classroom size reduction and the other went through when it was there. We all know that every kids learns differently and has different capabilities. However, my child that did not have the classroom size reduction had a great education and you can not call it inferior to the education my other child got with classroom size reduction.

A BIG point to make is Pleasanton is not like all school district in the State. The parents in our community are very involved in their child's education in the classroom and outside the classroom. You go to any back to school night in Pleasanton and ask for classroom volunteers, you have almost every family volunteering. I have been a long time volunteer in our schools and have helped give one-on-one time to students who needed it in the classroom. While a volunteer like me is not going to be able to run a classroom, we can take direction from a teacher on a specific item to help a student with (especially elementary school) and be successful. The teacher identifies the issue and the student and with fairly little instruction a parent can teach that specific item to a student. In the end I believe this is even more beneficial to the student as the students who need it now have multiple adults in their life who care about them and are helping them be successful. Especially when some of the adults are doing this without pay because they care. Later on in life that student will be more likely to volunteer in their community because they saw the value.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by john
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 25, 2013 at 5:40 pm

"Studies have not shown that classroom size reduction is the best use of funds."

The studies are at best inconclusive. Lacking decent evidence, common sense and personal experience informs that a first grade class with 30 pupils is a less effective learning environment than one with 20 pupils. I too had children in the schools before an after class sizes were increased, and the difference was quite noticeable.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Dan
a resident of Bridle Creek
on Oct 25, 2013 at 9:21 pm

Common sense MIGHT say that the test scores would go down if CSR were in place, but that is most certainly not the case for the school I reviewed.

Sorry, but the evidence is not there and the district knows it. Any argument made otherwise is made from a personal perspective, and we can't have that in PUBLIC schools can we?

Here's another thought experiment: Take the students and their families (but not the teachers) from PUSD and transplant them to a school district in Oakland and vice versa. What do you think will happen?

Sincerely,

Dan


 +   Like this comment
Posted by john
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 26, 2013 at 2:30 pm

"...What do you think will happen?",

Not sure what that has to do with class size, but both would probably do worse as each adjusted to different levels of student motivation and parental support.

"... but that is most certainly not the case for the school I reviewed. "

I'm not sure what you mean by "reviewed". I can only say that my wife volunteered in both my kid's classes, and she saw the smaller K-3 classes (size 20 vs. 30) as a distinct advantage for student and teacher. What's wrong with a "personal perspective"?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Get the facts
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 26, 2013 at 8:51 pm

Let's be clear, Class Size Reduction benefits students, as they get more one-on-one attention. And no doubt, it makes it easier for the teacher, for the same reason, plus less overall work.

But let's also be clear, unlike what Jill has said, CSR is NOT pushed by the union. As Jill has correctly stated, the more CSR, the more teachers. But most teachers could care less how big the union is. And many teachers do not like CSR because the more teachers there are, the less money there is for raises. CSR costs a ton of money, millions for each grade level. The state does not pay for all of it, so the district picks up the rest, and therefore, less money remains to pay teachers.

Bottom line, most teachers like CSR, but not all do, as it does not help all teachers. And it hurts all teachers' bottom lines.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Dan
a resident of Bridle Creek
on Oct 27, 2013 at 7:06 pm

John,

"Not sure what that has to do with class size, but both would probably do worse as each adjusted to different levels of student motivation and parental support."

My analogy was to assert that our students are high performing, and they are high performing because of their families, not because of the teachers. The test results - even with CSR - at least explain this.
It has everything to do with CSR as there are those who swear the students are suffering. If they are, they're not suffering at the school I looked at with regards to test scores. So I can only assume that those who complain are either weak teachers, or relatives of weak teachers who complain about the additional work.

And before anyone complains, I'm not saying ALL teachers are weak.

"I'm not sure what you mean by "reviewed". I can only say that my wife volunteered in both my kid's classes, and she saw the smaller K-3 classes (size 20 vs. 30) as a distinct advantage for student and teacher. What's wrong with a "personal perspective""

There's nothing wrong with a "personal perspective", but when you look at the facts - the test scores themselves - the students don't seem to be suffering. The only thing left is the teachers, and frankly, I'm not sympathetic. They are paid very well and are supported by very active families here in our town. I would challenge any of them to go work at any disadvantage district if they think its bad here.

Dan.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by john
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 27, 2013 at 10:33 pm

Dan,

"If they are, they're not suffering at the school I looked at with regards to test scores."

"Looked at"? What do you mean "looked at"? Did you spend some time in a classroom with 20 students, and then with 30? That's what my wife did on several occasions. What did you observe?

"So I can only assume that those who complain are either weak teachers, or relatives of weak teachers who complain about the additional work. "

Wrong assumptions. We aren't teachers or relatives of teachers. We are parents who, like many other parents have directly seen the effects of larger class sizes on very young students.

"... the test scores themselves "

Test scores have limited value for evaluating the effectiveness of kindergarten and first grade education.

"... I would challenge any of them to go work at any disadvantage district "

I think many of them have.

"They are paid very well..."

We are talking about class sizes, not teacher's salaries. I, like many other parents, am concerned with the quality of education our children our getting, and we've seen it decline with larger class sizes.

What have you observed with your children? Were they in classes both before and after class sizes were increased?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Dan
a resident of Bridle Creek
on Oct 28, 2013 at 8:58 am

John,

Go look up Star and API test scores on your own and stop with the over-emotional nonsense.

One of my kids was attending the school when the increase was put into effect and there was no noticeable decline in her test scores and/or performance. But maybe that's because we are involved in her schoolwork and make sure she's doing what she needs to do.

Coincidentally, her teacher at the time did complain so I'm only going on personal experience like yourself. In fact, she brought up that her union didn't like the increase, like I was supposed to care or something.

Again, look up test scores yourself.

Dan


 +   Like this comment
Posted by john
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 28, 2013 at 6:38 pm

Dan,

"...stop with the over-emotional nonsense"

I don't see where I provided any kind of "emotional" response, let alone an "over-emotional nonsense". Could you please point out where I did?

Of course I'm familiar with API scores for the the district, I'm not sure what point you are trying to make here.

"One of my kids was attending the school when the increase was put into effect and there was no noticeable decline in her test scores and/or performance."

Do you mean, for example, that when she was in first grade the class size was 20, and when she was in second grade her class size was 25, and her API scores were roughly the same between first and second grade, and from that you concluded that there was no reduction in effectiveness of the education provided her as a result of those test scores? If so, I would answer that:

(1) You may have a different opinion if you volunteered in her classroom and observed the change.

(2) You may not see the effects in API scores until years later in some cases (google standardized testing for k-3 to read about this.

(3) You may also have a different opinion if you have had two children going through the same grade levels, one with classes of 20 students and the other with classes of 30 students.

I hope you also understand that a group of concerned parents raised money specifically to reduce class sizes for first graders, and that was done this year.

So, I ask once again, what do you mean by "looked at"? Does that mean you spent some time in the classroom and observed directly the results of the class size change?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Dan
a resident of Bridle Creek
on Oct 28, 2013 at 9:17 pm

John,

As a whole, results for the grades tested (STAR and API) showed no statistical change even though class sizes increased.

I don't need to be in the class to see that academic performance has been unchanged, I just need to google the state websites. Like I said before, do your own homework.

Sincerely and bye now.

Dan


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Really?
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 28, 2013 at 10:46 pm

"I don't need to be in the class to see that academic performance has been unchanged" And with that comment you shed complete clarity on the ignorance that comes from thinking that test scores has everything to do with educating kids!

I concur, some time in the classroom could be really insightful for you Dan, to think that one test, in one setting, multiple choice at that, can really show the knowledge of our students. Just think of all that it doesnt show. My child's school had most of their scores drop. Regardless, use common sense- 30 5 yr olds in one room vs. 20 has significant impact to the learning of the individual.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by john
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 28, 2013 at 11:00 pm

Hi again Dan,

Perhaps you missed this question:

"I don't see where I provided any kind of "emotional" response, let alone an "over-emotional nonsense". Could you please point out where I did?"

Also, did you not see:

"(2) You may not see the effects in API scores until years later in some cases (google standardized testing for k-3 to read about this.)"





 +   Like this comment
Posted by Dan
a resident of Bridle Creek
on Oct 29, 2013 at 9:58 am

"...Could you please point out where I did?"

Yes, but I just don't care enough.

"(2) You may not see the effects in API scores until years later in some cases (google standardized testing for k-3 to read about this.)"

Again, the numbers AFTER implementation do not prove any academic degradation. Anything else is strawman and uninteresting.

Thanks,

Dan


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Dan
a resident of Bridle Creek
on Oct 29, 2013 at 10:08 am

Really,

I didn't comment on the nature of the testing, nor did I mention anything about educating. I simply stated that given the the circumstance, our students are performing at high levels even though class sizes are larger.

Quibble all you want on "educating" kids and the impact of larger class sizes. Educating kids is a 24hr job and not just the responsibility of the school.

My child is doing fine and apparently so are a lot of others in our school system. Unless there is evidence otherwise, anything else is a personal opinion.

And btw, I am talking about PUSD specifically, so comparing other districts doesn't count.

Dan


 +   Like this comment
Posted by john
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 29, 2013 at 1:55 pm

Dan,

"Yes, but I just don't care enough."

In other words, you can't. It is okay to admit you're wrong.

"... anything else is a personal opinion."

Dan, everything you're saying is personal opinion.

Maybe you didn't read this:

""(2) You may not see the effects in API scores until years later in some cases (google standardized testing for k-3 to read about this.)""

The effects can show up years later.

Furthermore, as I said before, this was an issue taken up by a group of parents (that I was personally involved in), so your assertion that it was only teachers and relatives of teachers isn't true. Maybe you missed that?

Web Link



 +   Like this comment
Posted by Dan
a resident of Bridle Creek
on Oct 29, 2013 at 5:19 pm

John,

Your "personal" experience does not match the statistical data.

And the predictions as indicated in "You may not see the effects in API scores until years later in some cases (google standardized testing for k-3 to read about this.)" are just that: predictions.

Once again...

Looking at the STAR/API test scores of my kids schools does not prove that increased class size negatively impacts either the current or future academic results.

Sorry man, those are the results and unless you have something that quantifiably shows different, we're at an impasse.

Dan


 +   Like this comment
Posted by john
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 29, 2013 at 8:14 pm

Dan,

We are not at all at an "impasse". If you had actually looked "at the STAR/API test scores of my kids schools", you would have realized that kindergartners and first graders don't take STAR or API tests.

So your evaluation makes no sense at all. Like I said above, it is okay to admit that you are just plain wrong, okay?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Dan
a resident of Bridle Creek
on Oct 29, 2013 at 10:53 pm

John,

That's all ya' got? LOL!!!

So you have not proven anything and you've also been disingenuous in your debate?

So we're full circle. I'm the one with "personal" experience (via quantifiable data and data sets) and you have...wait for it...nothing!

I'm sorry, I'm not laughing at you, I'm laughing at wasting my time debating this issue with you.

Dan

p.s. I'm not really sorry :-)


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jack
a resident of Downtown
on Oct 29, 2013 at 11:24 pm

"A good teacher can do more with 50, than a bad teacher can do with 5."
Jerry Brown on smaller class sizes


 +   Like this comment
Posted by john
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 29, 2013 at 11:57 pm

Okay Dan.

I would ask where I've been "disingenuous", but then you haven't answered where I've been "emotional", so I'm not expecting much.

Like I said at the outset: " Lacking decent evidence, common sense and personal experience informs that a first grade class with 30 pupils is a less effective learning environment than one with 20 pupils."

You haven't presented the slightest bit of evidence to contradict any of that, but have made strange accusations of my being "disingenuous" and "emotional".

Please go re-read what you wrote, and read my responses. If, as you say, you have children in PUSD, you may want to take a more active role in their education.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by mrs bob
a resident of Pleasanton Village
on Nov 1, 2013 at 9:08 am

It's not just a problem in elementary school. .. middle & high schools are over crowded classes too. But coming from another County I jabbed noticed the amount of admin staff in middle school. .. yet I seem to receive no information on school closure days or events. Yet my childs old school had 2 office staff & 1 sports coordinator for the whole school & we were noted on everything going on. Lol


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Keri
a resident of Birdland
on Nov 4, 2013 at 10:42 am

If we're talking hard numbers and research, I just finished Malcom Gladwell's David and Goliath and the case for CSR isn't strong. We've all been brainwashed into thinking smaller must be better but in reality the numbers don't support it. Please look into these things before forming an opinion that "sounds/feels good".


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Cholo
a resident of Livermore
on Nov 4, 2013 at 1:08 pm

can we all get along!!!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by john
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Nov 4, 2013 at 7:06 pm

Hi Keri,

Maybe you just scanned Gladwell's book? Perhaps you are unfamiliar with PUSD K-3 sizes? Gladwell argues that class sizes of 18 to 24 are ideal.

Web Link

K-3 PUSD class sizes went to 30 students when CSR was eliminated (and even more in some cases). It was having a clear effect on learning. First grade classes were reduced back to 25 this year, with the help of the efforts of a group of concerned parents. Even that size of 25 is outside of Gladwell's "ideal" range and was only achieved for first grade. We need to get the class size into that 18-24 range for all K-3 classes.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by hmmm
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Nov 4, 2013 at 7:57 pm

I also read the Gladwell book and John is right. 30 is too high and in the book he was talking about older grade levels. The class sizes in CA are much too high across the board.


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