Letters to the Editor

Posted: Thursday, December 19, 2002

Increasing class size harms students, educators alike

In regards to the letter to the editor concerning the vote to increase in class sizes (Letters to the editor, Nov. 22), I want to put in my two cents about what a drastic mistake this would be. As a former school psychologist in Utah I saw the direct effects on morale and teacher effectiveness due to low pay and large class sizes. While those teachers are in the bottom 10 percent as far as paychecks in the country, the class sizes in my former district of 72,000 students often reached 35 or more at the middle school level.

These factors had a drastic effect on the morale of teachers who were definitely overworked and under compensated. The result was a group of potentially good teachers who largely felt they had lost their effectiveness. Cynicism and discouragement were rampant and affected the schools and students at every level. As a school psychologist, I worked with teachers and administrators in a variety of situations and saw how "best practices" were often not possible because of limited resources and time as well as discouraged personnel.

It was amazing for me when I came to Alaska and found such an optimistic proactive group of teachers and staff to work with. It is like night and day! Teachers here work very hard but still largely feel like they can work effectively and make a difference. This is an amazing bunch of educators who enjoy their jobs and help students -- despite the fact that they already work long hours due to current class sizes and work load. Without increased pay and a reasonable cap on class sizes in the KPBSD I am afraid this would no longer be the case.

The epidemic in Utah was out of control and would take some major overhauling (and major dollars) to return to where teachers feel effective and good about what they do. In the KBPSD we need to be pre-emptive and keep work loads and pay at a reasonable level instead of insidiously increasing class sizes and lowering pay -- like the proverbial frog in the boiling pot -- until we realize we have done irreversible damage to the excellent teachers and students in our once healthy district!

Kristan Warnick

School Psychologist

Soldotna and Kenai Middle Schools

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