Class Size

September 13, 2011 at 12:16 am Leave a comment

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If anybody wants to know about class size, they should talk to an experienced classroom teacher. Teachers in the classrooms will tell you that the number of pupils in a classroom has a distinct effect upon the teacher’s ability to provide adequate experiences for all students. Student achievement is directly related to the number of students in the classroom. This is supported by the majority of reliable studies conducted by a variety of organizations.

As a classroom teacher, probably like many other classroom teachers, I have had the experience of dealing with as many as 42 students and as few as 7 students. I am sure there are teachers who have had more than 42 students and some who have had fewer than 7. The US Department of Education claims that the average class size is 25 students per class. His school day might have 300 min. of actual instructional time. The other time is devoted to lunch, bathroom breaks or non-instructional events. Therefore in an elementary level classroom of 25 students over 300 min., the teacher has 12 min. per student in the course of the day. And a high school class or a departmentalized grade school class with 15 min. segments allows only 2 min. per student. Decreasing or increasing class size has an impact on teacher/pupil interaction time.

Teachers use nonverbal communication to interact with individual students without disrupting an entire classroom. Eye contact, physical nearness and body language are some of the means that teachers can use to communicate with students. Good teachers communicate with the students with a raised eyebrow, rolled eye, a shrug, or moving to stand near a student. As a result classroom activities are not disrupted by a single student. Some students demand attention. The students can often disrupt activities in the classroom. Being able to identify an attention seeking outbreak early, the teacher will be able to avoid the situation with the nonverbal communication. Increasing class sizes create situations in which attention seeking students evade the teacher’s watchful eye.

The present economic situation has led to decreases in school budgets, greater demands on teachers and increased pressure on school districts to perform. Politicians, legislators and parents have joined to criticize pupils, teachers and schools. Reducing state spending has been at the expense of quality education. Funding to school districts has been cut causing the local school district to fire teachers and reduce programs. The result has been to increase class size. Some school districts determine the number of teachers allowed in a school by dividing the school population by the number of students permitted per class. For example, if the school board’s class size policy is 30 students per class and the school population is 900 students then the school should have 30 teachers. That sounds reasonable. The problem in some school districts is that no allowance is made for special needs classes. State law often mandates the size special need classes. For example, students with learning disabilities are limited to 12 students in a class. Students with severe physical disabilities are limited to 5 per class. Depending upon the number of special-needs classes in a school, the class-size may be above the expected 30 per class.

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Class size is a component that contributes to good schools. When school budgets are reduced for whatever reason it often results in an increase in the number of students in the class. The resulting effects often influence test scores and abilities of teachers to achieve the goals that have been established within the school. The result is to provide the appearance of a great decline in education, the schools taxpayers who fund and the teachers that have been hired. This becomes the political fodder of future campaigns. Teachers, schools and educational funding are easy targets for those with a different philosophy of education. Politicians and too many parents view teachers as overpaid and under worked. They point to the schools as failures. They see education funding as a poor investment. Schools, teachers and educational funding become the targets of the “Balance the Budget” propagandists. It is not difficult to convince an electorate who agrees with the thought that teachers do not do their job and schools are not doing their job as daycare providers. The invariable result of this thinking and the resulting actions is that some of the best young teachers decide to move on to other professions. Prospective teachers in the universities decide not to major in education. And experienced teachers with too much invested in a school system are left behind to deal with increased class sizes, decreased budgets and their efforts left unappreciated .

School reform is a plank in every politicians platform. Failure to address the issue of class size will only result in poorer schools and less motivated teachers and a never-ending cycle of failure. If politicians truly wish to improve education they should include a sliver of reduced class size. I have found – my own experience – the ideal class size ranges between 16 and 20. There are classes that need to be smaller but generally speaking a class below 20 provides the opportunity for teachers to work at their optimum. Students benefit from good teachers working in a school environment that encourages learning.


Entry filed under: School Reform, Uncategorized.

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