Letters to the Editor


It is rewarding to see one's work cited, but Dr. [David] Thibodaux's comments expressed in The Independent Weekly (June 14, 2006) are both gratifying and distressful. The decline in comparative rankings of Lafayette student performance is saddening, but unforeseen disasters, student displacements, mobility and economic issues are highly disruptive.

On the other hand, I am gratified to see that some remember ideas raised during my 2004 visit in the community. Since then, we have continued studying class size and its effects, following students through grades K - 12 and beyond. The STAR class-size experiment students (about 12,000) graduated in 1998 from high school if they progressed through school with no disruption, such as failing, dropping out and changing schools.

The long-term results have been most gratifying, showing near equity in education performance between poor and minority and more "privileged" students during the STAR experiment (grades K - 3) and afterward. The research showed, among other things, that for maximum effect the student should start school (kindergarten, or before) in a small class. (The small class is preventive and not remedial). Students require three, and preferably four years in a small-class setting for lasting benefits. Thus, a planned class size initiative would start with grades K ' 1, and move ahead one grade per year through grade 3 (K ' 1, 2, 3). This can be accomplished, as shown in North Carolina and other places, at minimum cost through resource reallocation if space is available.

Dr. Thibodaux has been a strong supporter of class-size efforts. However, his example of district-wide numbers may be misleading. More importantly, wholesale implementation such as Florida's class size fiasco deserves attention as bad politics and bad for kids. The emphasis should be grades K ' 3 or so, with careful monitoring, and allowance for unforeseen events. This approach is fully research-based with robust, long-term replications. I applaud the cooperative work of Lafayette educators, the Chamber of Commerce, and community interests.