The Texas Tribune reports that a reduction in the Texas public education funding-brought about mainly by a reduction in federal stimulus funds-has resulted in a reduction of about 25,000 public school employees, including 10,000 teachers. This is turn has led to an increase in a significant increase of districts asking for waivers to the state’s 22-1 student to teacher classroom size ratio.
After decades of unchecked growth in Texas education spending (with few academic positives to show for the rising money, which is up 95% from 1999 to 2009 alone), a move toward improved efficiency is due. Just the same, with fewer employees, there are going to be more students in Texas classroom, and that teachers would worry about having more students to manage is understandable. Wouldn’t it be nice if they had a way to “shrink” their classrooms from within?
Enter disruptive learning technologies. Already in use in innovative charter schools like KIPP LA, blended learning methods integrate technology into the student’s day to day classroom experience. In most cases, it puts students on computers for a portion of their day, giving them a chance to have a much more individualized learning experience. The teacher, in turn, has an opportunity to work with students not on the computers in a smaller, more intimate group. Suddenly, a classroom with a 24:1 teacher/student ratio can feel a lot more like 14:1, depending on the number of computer work stations available in the classroom.
What we need from the state to allow technology to flourish in the classroom is a much more hands-off approach to the way it handles Texas school districts. Strip away unnecessary mandates and free them to use their budgets to make investments in educational tools for their students, rather than, say, forcing them to use their dollars on state required non-classroom personnel. If the state of Texas truly wants to do what’s best for school districts and the teachers they employ, give them the freedom to operate at their maximum potential.