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Learning Curve

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Sizing up Mitch Daniels' claims

Gov. Mitch Daniels had plenty to say about education in his State of the State address Tuesday. Many of his claims were misleading; some were flat-out wrong. One that caught my attention was his claim that class size doesn't matter.

"Class size … is virtually meaningless," Daniels said. "Put a great teacher in front of a large class, and you can expect good results. Put a poor teacher in front of a small class; do not expect the kids to learn. In those Asian countries I mentioned, classrooms of 35 students are common, and they're beating our socks off."

To his credit, the governor is a founder and supporter of The Oaks Academy, a private school serving a mix of primarily low- and moderate-income students in Indianapolis. It's an excellent school, with all eighth-graders typically passing both sections of the ISTEP+ exams.

So what does The Oaks Academy have to say about class size? Are classrooms of 35 students common?

Not so much. Its Web site boasts of an average class size of 17 students – that's less than half the size of those Asian classrooms, by my public school math.

The Oaks Academy also has a preschool program, which the governor discounts as a luxury public schools can't afford. The Oaks Academy also offers full-day kindergarten, which the governor promised to Indiana public schools, but hasn't delivered.

Here's another view on the class size myth.

Karen Francisco, editorial page editor for The Journal Gazette, has been an Indiana journalist since 1981. She writes frequently about education for The Journal Gazette opinion pages and here, where she looks at the business, politics and science of learning as it relates to northeast Indiana, the state and the nation. She can be reached at 260-461-8206 or by e-mail at