Saturday April 19, 2014

KTTA makes hay out of nothing

Labour unions often seem to raise alarms regardless of whether there is something legitimate to complain about. It would be refreshing if, when facing common sense, they put special interests to the side.

In protecting members’ interests, they can lose sight of the public good.

The latest example where good news is filtered into bad has to do with class sizes in the
Kamloops-Thompson School District. A district report lists total class-size averages of 18.1
(kindergarten), 21.3 (grades 1 to 3), 25.9 (4 to 7) and 23.1 (8 to 12).

According to assistant superintendent Karl deBruijn, “class sizes are quite reasonable,” which should put parents of school children at ease.

Indeed, among 1,467 classes in 43 schools, no elementary classes had more than 30 students and only 19 secondary classes broke that threshold.

The Kamloops-Thompson Teachers’ Association, however, finds nothing reasonable about the numbers. The union’s president Jason Karpuk says there’s a creep of student numbers in classrooms that isn’t revealed in the district’s report.

He, of course, cites funding shortfalls for this so-called creep. Karpuk doesn’t provide any numbers to back that up, but says his concern is that students “are having their education needs compromised.”

According to the report, though, core academic courses only exceed the 30-mark by one or two students. That’s hardly a big deal and it’s highly unlikely students in those classrooms are having difficulty meeting educational standards.

Indeed, deBruijn says research on the relationship between learning outcomes and class size hasn’t shown a clear link. That assessment isn’t the only one.

Acclaimed Canadian author Malcolm Gladwell, who wrote such provocative books as Outliers, Blink and The Tipping Point, writes in his latest book, David and Goliath, that smaller class sizes do not necessarily create an environment that’s more conducive to learning.

It’s one of many counterintuitive points he makes in the book where he maintains, based on interviews with U.S. teachers, that a classroom with 18 to 24 students is the ideal number — very similar to the averages posted by the Kamloops district.

But in this case, it appears the KTTA is not so concerned with facts and figures as making hay out of nothing.

We Say editorials represent the viewpoint of The Daily News and are written by publisher Tim Shoults, city editor Tracy Gilchrist, or associate news editors Dan Spark and Mark Rogers.

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