Class Size Comedy

One of my guiltiest pleasures is watching the Today show. It’s mostly fluff, it rarely makes me smarter or nicer or better in any way, and it’s on during a time of day when I should almost certainly be doing something else. In fairness to myself, I really only turn it on if I’m on the treadmill, so I guess that’s something.  

I noticed a trend recently while watching Today, and felt compelled to share it with you. Especially if you are a parent of children who do or will ever attend a public school, this is important. American advertisers are trying to deceive you.

As you know, there is a wave of “back-to-school” television commercials every year around Labor Day, when most American children head back to school. One thing that is wildly misrepresented (at least in the ads I’ve shared below) is the number of children in most classes.

Consider the fact that in Colorado the average class size is 17.6 students. In Denver Public Schools, the maximum allowable numbers are 27 students in an elementary (k-6) class and 32 in a secondary (7-12) class, per the contract with the teacher’s union. Last week, I spoke to a friend who teaches in a different district and has 32 kids in her FIRST GRADE class. 

I'm not a parent, but I can imagine what I would think if there were 31 other kids in my six-year-old's class. So it wasn't too surprising when I found myself scrutinizing (and laughing aloud at) the back-to-school ads I was seeing during the Today show. Check out the number of kids in each of the classrooms in the ads below (click the link to see the entire ad):

 Lysol - NINE students

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Lysol - EIGHT students 

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 JC Penney - NINETEEN students AT LUNCH

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Carnation Breakfast Essentials - FIVE students (and TWENTY-EIGHT unused basketballs) IN A PE CLASS, assuming the big guy is the teacher

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If you've ever spent time in a classroom, you know that even 17 kids can be a lot to manage, much less to engage, inspire, and actually teach.  While not everyone agrees that reducing class sizes is the best way to increase student achievement, it's definitely at the top of my list. If you're interested in learning more about the debate over class size reduction, check out  this fact sheet and this article

And if you've got an hour or two to spare, find a public school teacher who could use a volunteer. Or if you've got twenty dollars to spare, give it to a teacher you trust to spend on classroom supplies. Because trust me, 6 basketballs to a kid ain't happening out there in the real world.