Class size and the September Shuffle

October 8, 2008 at 1:34 pm 6 comments

A parent writes:  “My kid ended up at XYZ CPS School.  At first i was freaking out because the class sizes were 32 ,32 and 33.  After about 2 weeks or so we heard through a parent that we were “getting” an extra class but it would be a half day only.  No one signed up for it so we waited for the next repsonse, that came a few days later,they then said we would get a full time teacher and that they would take 5 kids from each class and put into the new one. ”

I seem to recall having a conversation about this topic with a parent last Spring.  Perhaps even this exact same parent — who knows after all my school-related yammering sessions.  Anyhow, the parent claimed that the school had small classes, to which I replied that you never know how many neighborhood kids will walk in on that first day or school and surprise the principal.  Schools that are in the growing stage will often take in a bunch of kids via the CPS lottery, which makes sense since each kid is really a check for $$$ disguised as a cute little munchkin with a giant backpack.  More kids = more money.  But… how is a school to know how many to take in?  They want to have nice mid-size classrooms, but what happens when kids from the hood show up who haven’t registered?  The school has to take them in and mad scrambling ensues.  As it did in this school. 

The “rule” with CPS is that if you have more than 28 kids, you get another teacher.  But lets face it – they won’t pay for another teacher if you have 29 or 30, splitting the class into 15/15.  The reality is that sometimes they will let the classrooms go higher than 28 or even 30.  Then if you wind up with one or two crazy-energy kids in there, running the giant classroom becomes every adult’s worst nightmare (well, mine at least.)   So just to be sure kids have ended up where they really want to be, CPS waits almost 3 weeks before officially taking the count and assigning the new teachers.  And with a new teacher is usually the need to scramble for classroom furniture and supplies.  Stuff don’t just show up all shiny and new because you added another teacher.  In any case, it results in September chaos and kids being shifted to different teachers and classrooms just when they get used to their first one.  The kind of stuff that makes parents of Kindergarteners crazy when all we wanted was a peaceful transition into school.

In the end, it worked out well at this school because they ended up with nice small class sizes.  And they were able to find a way to pay for the Full Day Kindergarten out of their limited funds.

What to do about it?  Get the school to do everything in their power to encourage registation well before school starts.  See if someone can post little flyers at the local park reminding people to register for school.  When you encounter people who say their child is attending your school say “you ARE registered, right?!” and express shock and moral disapproval if they say no.  Stand at the entryway and heckle those who are not registered on day 1.  Not really on that last one unless you’re pretty brave.

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6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Rookie Sahm  |  October 8, 2008 at 9:43 pm

    How can a parent wait until the first day of the school to register their children? What kind of a nerve system do they have? or maybe no nerves at all.
    If they can comfortably sleep at night, waiting until the first day of the school, I don’t believe that moral disapproval or even heckling would bother them either.

  • 2. Old Hand  |  October 10, 2008 at 1:06 pm

    Honestly, I think most of the time it’s purely because the parents don’t realize that it’s necessary. I have friends who didn’t register their daughter at our neighborhood school until summer when I asked them about it (instead of during the suggested enrollment week in spring). These are overeducated professionals with 40 plus years of school between them, and it just didn’t occur to them.

  • 3. Kathryn  |  October 15, 2008 at 12:49 pm

    I also think that for many parents, their neighborhood school is their fall back school. People don’t feel right registering until they are sure that they aren’t going to get into other schools. So many people get into magnets and coveted neighborhood schools late and off waiting lists. The system really punishes ordinary neighborhood schools. The parents definitely play a role in this, but I really believe part of it is just the nature of the system.

    I’d love to know how other big school districts with school choice handle the registration process.

  • 4. Jay  |  July 13, 2009 at 9:43 am

    As a teacher, I hate to tell you this, it gets worse. In K-2, it takes 28 kids to fund a teacher. In 3rd-8th grade, it takes a minimum of 31 kids to fund a teacher. If schools want smaller classroom sizes, the school has to fund another teacher through sacrificing something else which is usually classroom materials. I had a class of 35 kids at one time last year. The whole business model of CPS is messed up. I truly believe teachers do their best in “managing” the kids, but kids are obviously going to fall through the cracks. I would love to see Ron Huberman or any administrator try to teach over 31 kids and still expect them all to meet AYP. If you look at suburb schools, class size is usually between 20-26 students. It’s amazing how I am used to class sizes of 33 students in one room.

  • 5. CPSTeacher  |  March 24, 2012 at 6:40 am

    At my school we have class size issues throughout the building. I teach a 7th grade departmental subject; my smallest class size (out of four) is 31, my largest is 35. Also, there is an additional overflow of 7th graders so one of the 8th grade classes is a 7th/8th split. (Students transfer in and out through the year which sometimes gives uneven class sizes.)

  • 6. cheap teacher supplies  |  February 16, 2014 at 10:07 pm

    It’s hard to find experienced people on this topic,
    however, you sound like you know what you’re talking about!

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