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Two reforms discussed in depth

April 12, 2000

News-Times
Newport, Oregon

Teaching 200 students per day

Dear Editor:

The latest word from the LCSD Administration News-Times, 4/5/00) is that teachers will be asked to shoulder almost the entire burden of $3.1 million funding cuts for the 2000 - 20001 school year. The current proposal from Supt. Stoops is that the teachers' contract under negotiation include a bare cost-of-living increase in wages, 2.2%, a cutback of 20% in the health care benefits, and another increase in class size -- and consequently in teacher workloads.

While a cut in income cannot be seen as other than disappointing in an otherwise prosperous statewide economy, the most onerous item, both for teachers and for students, is the increase in class sizes, in high schools and middle schools from 27 to 29 students.

The increase in class size represents only the latest increase in the workload for teachers. Twelve years ago LCSD high school class sizes averaged 22 students. The proposed 29 students amounts to a 32% increase in the teachers' workload. Just think what it means for a teacher to be faced with six periods per day of 29 (and in many cases 33 or more) students. That amounts to 180 to over 200 children per day. That means an enormous task of grading papers and, in many cases, two or three separate daily lesson preparations. This is to say nothing of the impossibility of knowing these students as individuals with individual needs and problems.

Teachers' inability to accomodate individual learning styles will seriously undermine efforts to improve LCSD's low student achievement scores. (For more commentary and facts about the recent Oregon State School Report Cards and the shocking LCSD results, go online to LCSD Scores and Problems ) The teachers' inability to meet students' needs will be a strong factor in whether they continue to work in Lincoln County schools; there's nothing so demoralizing as to be forced to do ones' job poorly - and when it means ignoring needy kids it is even more so.

Going from the ridiculous to the impossible, the latest idea floated by the LCSD administration is to force teachers to give up their lesson- preparation period, and to teach seven, instead of six, periods per day. Teaching an additional class would raise the individual teacher's daily number of students to 213-plus ! This increase could well result in an additional lesson prep as well.

Over the past two years, there has been the added burden on teachers, especially on teachers of 8th and 10th grade English, math, and science, of the CIM requirement to compile student work portfolios. In the case of English teachers, each student is required to submit three work samples of high quality in each of three categories, reading, writing, and speech. In order to achieve the quality required, most students must submit, over time, many more than nine pieces of work, all of which must be assigned, assisted, and painstakingly evaluated by the teacher. For the conscientious 10th grade English teacher, addressing the CIM portfolio requirements represent at least a 20% increase in workload. Together with the proposed increase in class size to 29, this amounts to a 52% increase, above and beyond the formerly full day's work. For next year, we're talking about increasing beyond 10 to 11 hours per day, five days per week, plus 8 to 10 hours per weekend, plus dozens of hours over Christmas and Spring breaks.

The loss of teachers' ability to respond to students' individual needs is the most drastic cut of all. Under such demanding circumstances, it is impossible for teachers to know and relate sympathetically to the large numbers of students who have daily problems, individual learning styles, learning disabilities, family dysfunctions, legal issues, etc. Some of these children have no other adults to turn to besides teachers. Under current and future conditions in Lincoln County schools, they cannot turn to teachers either.

Carl Reynolds
Newport, Oregon 97365
reynolds@teleport.com