September 19, 1997
Questions asked in this forum:
Do other influences have a greater impact on learning than class size? How might technology be used to help alleviate high student-teacher ratios? Where precisely does the size difference matter? Are there any good studies on small classes?
August 21, 1997:
Paul Solman talks with Education Secretary Richard Riley and school officials from around the country.
August 12, 1997:
Chicago Public Schools are looking into mandatory summer school to increase test scores.
February 11, 1997:
President Clinton announces plans to create national standards to measure the country's educational system.
January 16, 1997:
A report shows that despite a 15-year effort to improve public schools, performance still lags.
Browse the Online NewsHour's coverage of education.
A question from Patrick Irwin of Titusville, PA:
Our school system seem to reek with buzzwords i.e. Tech Prep, College Track, School to Work, etc. the one I find most bewildering is Classroom Intervention. I think that means a teacher has to take time from teaching the class to instruct an individual.
Are teachers being given the skills required to instruct in a professional mannner on a one to one basis despite the number of students in the room or are they taught to present lesson plans with ruthless efficiency?
Sonia Hernandez, Deputy Superintendent for the Curriculum and Instructional Leadership Branch of California State's Department of Education responds:
It is impossible to make sweeping statements about teacher preparation in this country – certainly in California – and maintain any degree of accuracy. Different colleges and universities teach different sorts of strategies that they consider most appropriate, given the needs of teachers and the immediate needs of students. Good training programs provide teachers with useful strategies which can be used in teaching lessons to whole classes, small groups, and to individual students. However, the term intervention can be used in a much broader context. Intervention may be defined in a number of different ways in relation to the needs of the students or groups of students—particularly in the matter of instructional strategies. Other examples of intervention include summer school, after-school programs and tutoring programs.
The underlying issue is: how do we provide assistance to students who are clearly lagging in their achievement? One-on-one tutoring, sometimes cross-age tutoring, parent collaboratives, providing extra time (after school, for example), instruction by a specialist, and certain strategies intended to address specific problems are among intervention options.
Michael Kirst, Stanford University professor and director of Policy Analysis for California Education responds:
We do not know what prospective teachers learn during university teacher training. They are only tested for basic academic skills, and then are certified after completing required hours of courses. The states review the university teacher PROGRAM, not the capabilities of individual teachers.
After university teachers are mentored by a veteran teacher, some veterans know how to do individual instruction, others do not.