Larry Mantle |

As class sizes rise, will student achievement fall?




Thursday morning on AirTalk, we faced the reality that class sizes will continue to rise in California public schools, as funding drops.  That’s led teachers and parents to protest what they see as an inevitable drop in student performance and teacher retention.

Our guest from Harvard, Professor Paul Peterson, argued that studies consistently show no correlation between smaller classes and student learning.  The opposite was contended by USC’s Margo Pensavalle.  She cited studies showing gains, and also pointed out how larger classes, including students with special needs, kept teachers from providing the individualized teaching needed.

I’m wondering if parents who have the option of paying for private school will consider that option more strongly as class sizes increase.  For most public school families that won’t be an option, so how will they deal with the greater demands on their kids’ teachers?

On a separate note, you might have noticed the huge circus tent on the west side of the Golden State freeway in Burbank.  It’s for the new show Cavalia, created by Normand Latourelle, the co-originator of Cirque du Soleil.  I attended the opening last night with my wife and son.

I’d seen the show in an earlier smaller-scale version and was impressed, but this expanded production is something else.  I’m far from an equine expert, but it’s impossible not to admire the beauty of the 49 horses in the cast, as well as the remarkable horsemanship and acrobatics of the troupe.  The trick riders are exhilarating to watch, but most impressive is the balance between spectacle and smaller-scale interaction between horse and human.  We thoroughly enjoyed the evening.