Anti-labor education activist Michelle Rhee likes to say that she isn’t partisan — even though she has worked with Republican governors to crush unions.
In response to concerns from Chicago parents and teachers that students are being packed into over-sized classrooms, the StudentsFirstNY Twitter account retweeted a Heartland Institute advocate claiming that the average class size in Chicago is 16 students:
If you go to the page from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) dealing with Chicago, you’ll find that it actually doesn’t list class sizes. Rather, it has a teacher-to-student ratio. That ratio is 16.44 — this is presumably where the Heartland Institute staffer got the number from.
The problem is, a teacher-to-student ratio is not the same thing as class size. The districts and states that report data to the NCES label a variety of support staff and tertiary individuals as teachers, including a lot of people who do not have sole responsibility for a classroom. The NCES itself admits that this ratio is not the same as class size. Check out this page of “Fast Facts” — you’ll see that NCES numbers show a teacher-pupil ratio of 15.4 in 2009 but class sizes between 20-23 over roughly the same time period. Simply put, the Heartland Institute employee is comparing apples to oranges.
More reliable numbers can be found from the Illinois Board of Education. This Chicago Teachers Union report cites those numbers, which estimate that class sizes are more in the range of 25 with poorer schools having far more students. Keep in mind that Chicago’s kindergarten and first grade classrooms have larger class sizes than 95 percent of the state.
It’s telling that Michelle Rhee’s organization would parrot such unreliable numbers in its crusade to crush teachers unions. Don’t let them get away with it. Share this post on social media and join the fight with PCCC by signing up to stay updated on our activism using the box at the top.