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Keithley Middle School, Tacoma, Wash.
Twenty-two may not sound like an enormous class size, but in a remedial eighth-grade math class where some students are still struggling to understand multiplication, division, or fractions, the number is far too high for each student to get the help they need, says teacher Carre Potis. “It makes it difficult to do small group instruction, to check in with every student, every day, and to build the relationships that you need for teaching and learning.”
Meanwhile, the science teacher down the hall from Potis has 35 students—in a laboratory class! “You can’t even move. You literally cannot maneuver around her classroom,” Potis says. Potis and her colleague aren’t alone. Despite the research and the experiences of educators showing smaller class sizes are better for students—especially girls and boys living in poverty—Washington State’s average class sizes are the 47th largest in the country. (Only Utah, Oregon, and California are worse.) That’s why Potis and her colleagues are so excited about, and appreciative of, the Washington Education Association’s (WEA) new Class Size Counts campaign for smaller class sizes.
WEA knows state lawmakers must be held to their commitment to pay for smaller classes for Washington state’s students. As Potis, a third-year teacher and building representative, points out, “In the end, it’s our students who are suffering.”
—Mary Ellen Flannery