That's a huge wave. If you've ever carried a gallon of water you might have a better appreciation for what it feels like to have tens of thousands of gallons of water smashing into you.
I have surfed, badly, and on waves that were maybe two feet high. I grew up in San Diego and am a strong swimmer so I thought - before I ever tried surfing - that it would be easy. It's not, and when you bury the nose of that board in a two foot wave and flip foot over head, it hurts. When you add a child to a classroom, you're adding the whole range of needs that child brings. It's like adding a foot to a wave - it's not just one foot of water, it's a foot of water that's 300 meters long. That's a lot of weight added to that wave.
Some people - people who have never taught 32 children - think it's not a big deal to add a child or two to a classroom. It is a big deal, and I would argue that just like surfing isn't about being a swimmer, teaching more children isn't a matter of being a teacher - it's an entirely different game, and not one that someone who wants what's best for children would support.
Marguerite Roza and Monica Ouijdani researched the issue of class size and published a paper titled "The Opportunity Cost of Smaller Classes: A State-By-State Spending Analysis." I like their work and agree with a lot that's in this paper. The popular notion that class size has "ballooned" isn't necessarily true. But it's also true that class size matters. Mark recently posted on class size and did a beautiful job outlining the cold numbers that accompany each additional body. I could run the metrics as well but we've all seen them - each additional student adds so much additional load, and it increases exponentially, not directly.
While Roza and Ouijdani suggest we just "add" two students to the current limits in order to save some money, it doesn't really work that way. Each building has only so many teachers. If you get another teacher for every 30 students, and you have 28 extra students, you don't get another teacher. Those children are "overloaded" into existing classrooms and teachers teach them. They always have. Suggesting that we add two students more per class I suppose might save some dollars, but we really already have a system that allows that.
The real issue here isn't adding two students, it's about saving money. Washington legislators can't seem to imagine any way to raise the revenue necessary to fully fund education. I can think of many ways to raise that revenue, but I'm not a legislator. I'm a teacher.
Because I'm a teacher I can say with some credibility that adding two children a class is a bad idea. Under our current "limit" of 32, I've had up to 38 children in one class. Suggesting we increase that by two is offensive to me as an educator who knows the challenges poverty and trauma place on a child's chances in life, but also as a parent who expects that my daughters will get at least a minute or two of attention from their teachers.
While it's true that class sizes haven't inflated to the ratios we hear when teachers or parents complain, it is also true that smaller class sizes are preferable. That's why private schools offer them, and that's why parents who want the best education for their child seek them.
In the struggle to fund education and to do the most with what we have, it's not wrong to suggest that adding two students to every class is a solution, but it would be terribly wrong to implement that suggestion. If you disagree grab your board, head out to Hawaii's North Shore, and catch one, my friend. Or better yet, if you've never tried to teach 34 13-year olds how to write a thesis statement, come to my school and try it. You might learn a little something about what each added body really means.