Teachers to train for more kids

Glendale News Press

GLENDALE — School district officials are finalizing summer workshops to prepare primary-grade teachers for class sizes that could grow to include up to 30 students next year, officials said.

Workshops are intended to help kindergarten through third-grade teachers maximize classroom organization and management, an increasingly vital skill as classes swell by as many as 10 additional students.

"We're hoping with a strong foundation in the basics of organization, it will allow them to focus their time more on the actual teaching," said Kristine Siegal, who coordinates professional development for Glendale Unified School District. "If the structures are in place, you can move onto the content, and hopefully these workshops will give them more structure."

The workshops will center on classroom management, engaging students, and differentiation, an instructional technique that distinguishes students by ability.

"We have a ton of teachers who are experts in these areas," Siegal said. "We'd really like the teachers to be the ones to provide the strategies, because they know it best."

But Glendale Teachers Assn. President Tami Carlson said there are no teachers in Glendale Unified who have the experience to lead the workshops.

"There is no teacher in this district who has ever taught a K-3 [class] with 30-plus students under the present conditions of state, district and federal mandates for testing," she said in an e-mail. "To believe that our K-3 students are not going to have the most formative years of their education negatively impacted by such large increases in class size as planned by this district is simply foolish."

Still, district officials said that in a survey of elementary school teachers, more than 250 of the district's 477 elementary school teachers provided feedback.

"The interest was strong," Siegal said. "[Teachers] can choose which topic interests them. It'll be very open-ended in terms of fitting their needs."

Staff development is one way district officials said they hope to facilitate a transition into larger class sizes. In March, school board members voted 4 to 1 to let primary-grade class sizes increase up to 30 students, saving $10 million by July 2012 from a projected $18.5-million deficit.

"It's an opportunity to work with teachers and alleviate some of their anxieties going into next year, never having taught in a classroom bigger than 20 [students]," Deputy Supt. Dick Sheehan said.

Registration will begin in the next few weeks, and district officials have tentatively scheduled workshops for late June and mid-August, Siegal said.

"We know it's not an easy situation, and nobody is doing this by choice," she said. "We really are trying to provide as much support as we can."

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