The 20th Day of School

October 16, 2009 at 11:03 pm 1 comment

If you’re lucky, you’ve never been in a situation where understanding why the 20th day of the CPS school year is important.  That’s because it’s a day immediately after which chaos can explode.

Each year, principals across the city have to estimate their student population for the upcoming school year.  CPS then assigns a certain number of teachers to the school based on the expected number of students.  CPS uses a formula to determine the number of teachers that a school gets based class sizes of 31 in the upper grades and 28 in the lower grades.  This works out nicely for schools that have roughly 28-31 kids per grade (or in multiples of 2, 3, etc.)  But things get extremely problematic if there are say 70 kids in one grade.  They don’t break out nicely into 2 or 3 neat classes.  Or when a school is light in the upper grades and heavy in the lower grades.  Or when a school comes up just a few kids short to get a needed teacher.

The other challenge is the difficulty of estimating the number of kids who will be enrolled during a given year.  Some families say that they’re coming then they don’t show up.  Others show up the first week of school without having registered.  Also, the principal has to make a good guess on how many out-of-neighborhood kids to let into the school through the lottery.  In schools that are growing popular or have changing demographics, guessing the enrollment can be tricky, even for an experienced principal.

Because the number of students tends to fluxuate during the first weeks of schools, CPS waits until the 20th day of school to take the “official” student count.  (Honestly, I can’t imagine how flaky parents are to let things drag on that long, but hey, I’m crazier than the average parent.)  After that 20th day, a school can get an extra teacher/s or lose a teacher/s.  And as you can imagine, that is just enough time for kids to have gotten attached to their current teacher and get used to a schedule, only to have it put into upheaval after day 2o in school.  If a school ends up with a few students over prediction, they most likely get lucky and have small classes.  If a school falls a few short, they often end up getting the short end of the stick and have a couple really big classes.  This whole allocation process applies to Kindergarten, but separately from the rest of the school.

So what can you, as a parent, do about it?  The ideal scenario would be to butt into the administration’s business and inquire about it before school starts.  The later it gets into the school year, the harder it is to get families to switch schools.  Be proactive in finding out what your school’s expected enrollment is and the first week of school how well they’ve guessed.  Some principals may not want to share this information.  Others may be fine talking about it.  But it can’t hurt to ask.

I just hate it when parents are suddenly surprised on day 21+.  Try to stay informed.  The CPS teacher allocation system may be crazy, but knowledge may help ease the pain a little.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Peggy  |  September 6, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    And this awful practice continues. Children will arrive at school tomorrow and their teacher will not be there. How does that impact the children? I know of a school that is TWELVE students “short” of the number needed and a second grade teacher has now been displaced. CPS will find that the good, qualified, dedicated teachers will leave the system that has treated them so shabbily. And I ask again, how does that impact the children? Is there really any hope for improvement in CPS?

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