…What else do we need aside from salaries to attract teachers? Well, we need lower class size because teachers want satisfaction in their work. How do they get satisfaction? The real mission of a teacher is not to give idiot multiple-choice tests, but to get kids to think, to express themselves, to be able to advance arguments, to be able to persuade.
You get kids to do these things by getting them to write, to put their thoughts on paper. Then, the teacher has to mark the paper and spend three, four or five minutes with each student. Then she gets them to redo it and redo it. With constant coaching the student eventually begins to think, to express, to write. Without that coaching and practice, the student will never get there.
But teachers can’t do this today. With 30 kids in a class, five periods a day, 150 students, five minutes to mark each paper and five minutes to coach each student adds up to 25 hours per set of papers. There are not many teachers who will do that or, if they do, for very long…
There is no way to solve this problem given the way that schools are currently structured. Furthermore, even if we were to reduce class size from 30 to 15, it would mean that this country would need 4.4 million teachers. We would need to hire half of all the college graduates in the country just to teach school.
This was written 25 years ago.
From a speech by Albert Shanker. Quote starts on Page 7 of the Google Doc, Page 9 of the actual doc (PDF download available).