Thursday, December 10, 2015

Sac City Unified to Reduce Class Sizes k-3

By Duane Campbell
The Sac City Unified district has decided to reduce class sizes in k-3 classes down to a maximum of 24 students for the fall of 2016,  a good decision and a long overdue decision according to an article by Loretta Kalb in the Tuesday Sacramento Bee .
Community groups such as the Communities Priorities Coalition, parents groups, and the teachers union (SCTA) have been pressuring the district to make this decision for over two years.
The district has received over $67 million in additional funding since 2013 as a result of the economy recovering from the Great Recession  and Prop. 30 ballot measure.   The district  receives some $237 million in revenues from the change in state policy known as the Local Control Funding ( LCFF) that requires that this revenue be spent on specific populations,  low income, English Learners, foster children, and Special Education.    This year the  funds have already been allocated to purposes other than class size reduction by the administration and the School Board  in spite of the community demands  to spend the funds on class size reduction.

Watching the Board, it is often difficult to tell who or what body is making decisions on this significant new  LCFF funding .
Class sizes in Sacramento grew significantly during the Great Recession and teachers were dismissed while  new teachers not hired. 
The welcome  decision to reduce k-12 class size back toward the national average  will require the hiring of some 100 new teachers.  SCUSD and other local districts will have difficulty recruiting credentialed teachers as the number of students studying to become teachers has fallen during the economic crisis.

SCUSD will have a particular problem with this because of their relatively low starting salary for teachers and due to the need of urban school districts to recruit and retain a more diverse teaching faculty.  Some 21 % of the district students are English Language Learners and some 72 % of the district students received  free or reduced priced lunch ( and indication of family income).  The students in the district are 37 % Latino, 17.4 % Asian, 17.7 % African American, and 18% White (Anglo).
The district has long had difficulty recruiting faculty who are representative of the languages and cultures of the students. Hiring new teachers  at this time may well make this lack of representation worse.
CSU-Sacramento was a major source of minority teacher hires prior to the economic crisis of 2008/2009 and the Great Recession.  Sac State had  the largest  Bilingual/Multicultural Education department in the northern part of the state which produced substantial numbers of Latinos and Asian teachers.  However the BMED department that organized and directed bilingual teacher preparation was eliminated by university decision in 2010.   Without a program focused on recruiting and supporting future minority teachers, the teacher pipeline of Latino and Asian future teachers dropped from being some 35 % of Sac State credential graduates to less than 7 %. ( Sac City Unified and other local urban districts will  each be recruiting from a sharply reduced pool of minority teachers, possibly creating another generation of  Anglo domination of the local teaching profession.
The most direct way to recruit new teachers skilled in the teaching in diverse classrooms is to recruit new teachers from these communities.
While European American teachers can certainly learn to teach in language minority and diverse schools,  they can acquire cultural competence, the direct  way to change the composition of a district school staff is to recruit teachers  from the local communities.  The  significant and unfortunate failure of  leadership in teacher preparation at Sac State  imposes yet another obstacle to SCUSC achieving its diversity hiring goals and its student achievement goals.
A second major problem for the district is opening schools to allow for the decreased class size and the placement of the new teachers.  This problem was created in significant part by the unwise decision in 2012 to close 5 community schools and surplus these properties.  The board has already decided to re open Washington Elementary, but more classrooms will be needed.

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