Presentation on CFE class on Urban Education Reform Princeton University

November 27, 2012 Leonie Haimson, Class Size Matters

Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit
• In 1993, group of parents & education advocates concerned about inadequate state funding to NYC schools filed lawsuit, CFE vs. state of NY.

In 1995, Court of Appeals, New York's highest court, ruled that the NYS constitution requires that state offer all children the opportunity for a "sound basic education."
In 1999, the case went before State Supreme Court Justice Leland DeGrasse; in 2001 he ruled that school funding system was unconstitutional based on trial evidence. Gov. Pataki appealed decision and in 2002, the Appellate Division reversed it; re-defining sound basic education as providing 8th or 9th grade skills level & that existing funding is sufficient to achieve this. In 2003, the Court of Appeals overturned Appellate ruling, rejecting 8th grade standard, noting that a "high school education is now all but indispensable" to prepare students for employment and civic engagement.

• In 2004, Court appointed panel of three special referees to handle the state's non-compliance & develop plan to resolve the funding inadequacies. The referees presented their report and recommendations on November 30, 2004. On February 14, 2005, Justice DeGrasse affirmed panel’s recommendations, that NYC schools needed an additional $5.63 billion in operating aid and $9.2 billion for facilities if NYC students wd receive right to the opportunity for a sound basic education. On November 20, 2006, the Court of Appeals re-affirmed DeGrasse & that state constitution required that all NYS children have right to a "sound basic education" defined as "a meaningful high school education," & state had responsibility to increase funding for NYC public schools. The ruling deferred to the state's executive and legislative branches to determine the appropriate figure, establishing a minimum funding figure of $1.93 billion, adjusted for inflation.

What did Court say about class size in the CFE case?
• • • • CFE presented evidence about excessive class sizes in all grades in NYC schools and how this led to low achievement and high dropout rates. The Court of Appeals said that NYC class sizes were too large in all grades to provide students their constitutional right to an adequate education. “Plaintiffs presented measurable proof, credited by the trial court, that NYC schools have excessive class sizes, and that class size affects learning.” “Plaintiffs' evidence of the advantages of smaller class sizes supports the inference sufficiently to show a meaningful correlation between the large classes in City schools and the outputs…of poor academic achievement and high dropout rates.”

“*T+ens of thousands of students are placed in overcrowded classrooms, taught by unqualified teachers, and provided with inadequate facilities and equipment. The number of children in these straits is large enough to represent a systemic failure.”

(Campaign for Fiscal Equity, Inc., et al. v. State of New York, et al., 100 N.Y.2d 893, 911-12 (2003) (“CFE II”).

Average elementary class size
35 30 25 20 15
Source: OECD, 2006
For NYC, NYSED data

Chile Japan Turkey
Brazil UK


OECD Czech


Denmark Italy Hungary Spain Greece Iceland

Average middle school class size
40 35 30 25 20 15

(lower secondary) Source: OECD, 2006

For NYC, NYSED data

Japan Brazil
Chile Mexico


Poland Spain USA

France OECD Austria EU UK Italy Ireland Iceland

Class size in CFE costing out studies
• Expert educators assembled to decide what class sizes were necessary to provide an adequate education in NYC & other high needs districts. • These “professional judgment panels” concluded that much smaller classes in all grades were required. • In NYC & other high-poverty districts, class size should be capped at 14 students per class in grades K-5th . • In middle schools, class sizes capped at 22 students. • No more than 18 students per class in high schools. • These recommendations, along with other necessary programs and services costed out by consultants. • Cost estimates provided the basis for the $5.6 billion in additional funds that de Grasse originally ordered.

Tennessee STAR study
• • • In 1985, Tennessee sponsored large scale experimental study involving 6,500 students in about 330 classrooms at approximately 80 schools. Students randomly assigned to small class (13-17) , large classes (22-25) or large class with teacher plus aide, in grades K-3. Students randomly assigned to smaller classes did better in every way could be measured: higher test scores, better grades, better attendance, fewer held back, and many fewer disciplinary problems.

In 4th, 6th, and 8th grades, students who had attended small classes in the early grades were significantly ahead of their peers in all subjects
In high school, they had higher graduation rates, better grades, and higher scores on college entrance exams; 4 years of smaller classes more than doubled odds of graduation for poor students. Also, these students had higher college graduation rates and were more likely to major in STEM subjects. Gains especially large for poor and minority students. Alan Krueger, economist at Princeton, found that smaller classes in the early grades narrowed achievement gap by about 38% & economic benefits outweighed costs two to one.

• •

What we found in NYC first year of state-funded CSR program
(source: “Smaller is Better,” Educational Priorities Panel)

• Students appeared to be learning faster. • Teachers able to give individualized attention and small group instruction more effectively. • Smaller classes allow more frequent evaluation and follow-up. • Heightened level of student participation and enthusiasm. • Sharp decline in disciplinary referrals.

• Upsurge in teacher morale and parental involvement.
• Reform focuses on prevention rather than remediation.

Why does reducing class size work?
• • • • • • Institute of Educ Sciences cites smaller classes as one of only four “evidencebased” strategies that rigorous research has shown to improve learning: More teacher/student feedback including individualized attention and instruction (students receiving more feedback from teacher). More student/teacher feedback (allowing teachers to adjust style/strategies for each student.) Less stereotyping on both sides; racial disparities between teacher/student no longer matter. Class size reduction top priority of parents on NYC Dept. of Education “learning environment” surveys, every year since its been given. 86% of NYC principals say they are unable to provide quality education because of excessive class sizes.

CFE case “settled” with 2007 Education Reform Act
• • On April 1, 2007, the NYS Legislature enacted the Education Budget and Reform Act of 2007. The law mandated commitment to raise annual state educational aid annually, leading to $7 billion increase by the 2010-11 school year, with new “foundation” formula to distribute aid to all districts (not just NYC) based on need. Requirements for public participation in the development, approval and enforcement of the Contracts for Excellence (C4E), law's primary accountability tool.

As part of its C4E plan, NYC required to develop and implement plan to reduce class sizes in all grades.
In fall of 2007, state approved NYC plan to gradually reduce class size to average of 20 in K-3, 23 in 4th-8th grades, and 25 in core HS classes by 20112012.

Yet despite city’s promise, class sizes have risen sharply; by last year, the final year of CSR plan increased to four students above C4E goals in grades K-3
NYC class sizes K-3 actuals vs. C4E goals



23 22.1 21.4 21 21 20.9 20.7 20.5



C4E goals




Citywide actual


18 Baseline 2007-8 2008-9 2009-10 2010-11 2011-12

NYC class size data at

K-3 Class sizes now LARGEST since 1998
(data sources: IBO 1998-2005; DOE 2006-11)



24 23.2 23 22.4 22 22.1 21.7 21 21.6 21.3 21.1 21.0 20.9 21.4 22.1 22.9





Also in grades 4-8, class sizes have increased far above C4E goals
NYC class sizes 4th-8th actuals vs. C4e goals
27 26.6 26.3 26 25.6 students per class 25 25.1 24.8 25.3 24.6 23.8 23.3 23 22.9 25.8 C4E target


Citywide actual



Also in HS: average class sizes have risen far above goals
HS core class sizes actuals vs. C4E goals
27.5 27 26.5 students per class 26 25.5 25 24.5 26 25.6 26.1 25.7 25.2 24.8 24.5 Actual C4E targets 26.2 26.6 27

23.5 23 2007-8 2008-9 2009-10 2010-11 2011-12

What happened to the C4E program?
• Despite receiving more than $3 billion in C4E funds and higher overall spending, city has cut school budgets about 14% since 2007. • Maintenance of effort provision in C4E law was ignored (city cut funding to schools when state increased spending, despite prohibition of supplanting).

• Overcrowding in many schools worsened by growing enrollment & damaging co-locations.
• C4E state funding never reached full level & flat-lined or slightly decreased. • NYC DOE eliminated special programs designed to keep classes small (targeted K-3 class size funding that existed since 1999, agreement to cap class sizes in grades 1-3 to 28 or less, special ed initiative).

But even when state C4E spending increased; class sizes grew !
$700 645 $600 22.1 645 22.9 23.5 23 22.5 $500 21.4 $400 21 531 22 C4E spending (in millions)

21 20.5 K-3 average class size


$300 258 $200

20 19.5 19

$100 18.5 $0 2006-7 18 2007-2008 2008-9 2009-2010 2010-2011 2011-2012

C4E goals

Why? DOE had other priorities
• Between 2002-11, while out-of-classroom positions grew by more than 10 thousand, general ed classroom teachers have shrunk by more than 6000. • Enrollment has also grown fast in NYC schools, especially in early grades. • Spending on testing, contracts, consultants, and more bureaucrats have all risen sharply – including nearly $1B spent on charter schools.

Since 2007, general education classes in grades K-3 fell by more than 1000, as student pop grew by nearly 13,000


12804 280941 12619




279000 12451 Total Students 277000 275323 12109 273000





Total Students Total Sections


269000 268100





265000 2007-2008 2008-2009 2009-2010 2010-2011 2011-2012


But can NYC afford to reduce class size?
• In 2009, NYC DOE estimated would cost $358 million per year to achieve average C4E class size goals across the city;

• This represents less than 2% of DOE’s overall budget.
• Would cost $448 million per year in staffing to achieve class size goals in ALL schools; plus more in capital costs for school construction. • Last year and this , NYC due to receive more than $530 million in C4E funds.

Problems with public process
• C4E hearings happen in fall, supposed to happen before money spent, so public can have input. • State Ed Dept. now “pre-approves” plan; but law says city’s plan should be submitted to state only after public hearings occurred, so that public comments can help guide decision as to whether plan needs changing. • C4E law requires borough hearings in NYC; hasn’t occurred since 2008; now DOE does informal presentations w/much information missing at district parent councils; many on same date. • C4E parent complaint process complex and difficult for any non-attorney to implement.

Lessons from NYC?
• How money is spent is as important as extra funding. • Enforcement, compliance & accountability mechanisms critical. • Do not rely on state govt. • Continuing court oversight should be required to ensure constitutionally deficient conditions addressed. • Prisoners analogy

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