Black Swan in Potemkin Village

Iconfess-accusations that your humble scribe has a simplistic view of things have some basis in truth.

For example, public education class size is important because:

1. Education is typically the most expensive line item in State and local budgets;

2. Staffing is the single most expensive line item in public education budgets;

3. Direct instruction (teachers in classrooms) is the single most expensive line item within the staffing budget; and

4. Class size is the single most important determinant of teacher employment, because scope of curriculum, the other possible determinant, is pretty much fixed across all schools in a system as a result of state curriculum rules.

That logical sequence is pretty simplistic. From it, I'd conclude that State class size rules and/or local district class size policies are pretty important: typically, they set the instructional-cost 60% of the annual budget (per-pupil expenditure) paid for through taxes. Ergo, I conclude that government decisions to control class size are deserving of media coverage.

Historically, the print and electronic media have done a quite creditable job of reporting on the systematic reduce-class size-to-increase student achievement policy, in effect for K-12 class size over the post-World War II decades, from 27 in 1955 to 15 today.

Even your humble scribe can simplistically conclude that it has been the official classsize reduction policy which has been the single largest driver of annual per-pupil spending increases, from less than $2,000 (in current, not nominal, dollars) then to over $8,000 today.

Some states -Vermont, for example-reduced class size even more (down to 10.4 in 2008) and raised annual per-pupil costs even more (up to $15316 in 2009) thereby causing (simplistic conclusion) increased levels of taxpayer displeasure, probably because (simplistic conclusion) the reductions in class size which were promised to produce increases in student achievement haven't done so.

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