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Can We Improve Education By Increasing Class Size?

Bill Gates says that smaller class sizes aren't necessarily the answer. How about we pilot his idea at private schools?


Microsoft genius Bill Gates has a counter-intuitive, money-saving idea that he says might just boost student achievement: strategically raise class sizes. In advance of a national governors gathering, Gates expressed his concern over looming education budget cuts. But he's not convinced that education cuts necessarily have to harm students. Gates says that instead of using seniority to lay off teachers, school districts could save money by firing bad teachers and putting more students into the classrooms of teachers who get stellar student achievement results.

What's in it for the high achieving teachers? Financial incentives. But, even with teachers getting a bonus for taking on more students, Gates says school districts would still save money because they'd have fewer teachers overall. And, students might benefit and actually learn more from being in the room with a great teacher instead of languishing in the classroom of someone who's incompetent. "There are people in the field who think class size is the only thing," Gates said. "But in fact, the dominant factor is having a great teacher in front of the classroom."

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Obama's Education Budget Is on the Right Track. Too Bad Congress Won't Approve It

Obama's new budget proposes spending where it matters most: PELL grants, teacher training, and science and math education. If only it could pass.


President Obama unveiled his entire fiscal year 2012 budget yesterday at Parkville Middle School and Center of Technology in Baltimore, Maryland, and his proposed $77.4 billion in education spending—a 4 percent increase from 2010, the most recent budget enacted—bucks the national trend of defunding education. It's not a perfect budget, but Obama's committing to spending where it matters most: PELL grants, teacher and principal recruitment and training, and science, technology, engineering and math education.

In a post-budget-reveal conference call with reporters, Education Secretary Arne Duncan acknowledged that announcing the budget in a technology school was deliberate and reflects the laser-like focus the Obama Administration has on STEM education. Duncan said a big part of increasing the number of STEM educators nationwide will depend on funding the development of alternative certification programs that will make it easier for qualified professionals to head into the classroom. He also hopes to incentivize excellence in teaching by awarding grants to high performing STEM teachers.

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