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Four questions with ... Cathy Wall of Harrisburg

  • Cathy Wall

    Cathy Wall

 
By Hunter Banks
Contributing writer
updated: 4/26/2019 3:18 PM

Q. Education Secretary Betsy Devos said larger class sizes would let districts better compensate highly qualified teachers. As a high school teacher, what is your opinion?

Cathy Wall: From an academic standpoint, large class sizes are a problem. There's very limited time, and the more kids you put in the mix, the harder it is. If I have 25 kids and 50 minutes, I have two minutes per kid if I don't lecture at all. It really limits how often students can respond to me or one another.

Then, there's the social and emotional growth aspect. Three times a year I have to evaluate a group of students based on their emotional well-being. In a class of 20, I can get a pretty good feel for those kids, but in a class of 40, it's more difficult.

Q. What do you think will happen if they follow through with this?

Cathy Wall: I think what will happen is we won't end up with larger classes with the best teachers; we will end up with larger classes with whoever is willing to stay. Because I think what will eventually happen with younger teachers, especially, is that they are going to want to leave the profession.

Q. Where do you think this suggestion is coming from?

Cathy Wall: It may have something to do with (DeVos') very limited exposure to the classroom. Before she starts making suggestions like this, I would invite her to come hang out with an elementary teacher down here -- or even in an urban area -- and see what it is like. It concerns me that decisions are frequently made by people with no classroom experience. They have these ideas that look really great on paper, but the execution is another thing altogether because you're dealing with the bunch of kids.

Q. What do you think needs to be done about the shortage of teachers?

Cathy Wall: We need to ask the question, what do we need to do to entice strong students into the classroom? What do we have to do to make teaching an attractive profession again? I think we need to also look at the way other countries do education. What are some of the things that those high performing countries are doing; what can we learn?

-- Hunter Banks