Class Size Disparities

September 15, 2010 at 4:21 pm 22 comments

I’ve been noticing the different sizes of Kindergarten classes being reported, and I saw that someone commented on the First Day of School thred about their child’s K class size being 34 kids with one teacher and no aide.  I know many people are wondering how this happens when CPS “found the money” to keep class sizes at the previous 28 kids.

CPS uses a formula to assign a certain number of teachers to a school, something like 28 in the lower grades and 30 or 31 in the upper grades.  One GIANT problem with this is that it assumes a nice even balance of kids across grades and actually defies the reality of CPS, which is that kids seem to leave as they age, not enter the system (maybe that’s just my perception though.)   As a simple example, imagine a school with 9 grades, one class per grade.   CPS ads up, say 30 kids per grade = 270 and they divide that by the 28/30 alloted to the school and assign exactly 9 teachers.  It works out OK, although the lower grades are a little higher than 28 and the upper grades are a little lower than 31.  But CPS isn’t going to send out another 1st grade teacher due to 2 kids and split the class into 15/15, right?  Nor would that make sense. 

Now, imagine that same school has only 25 kids in grades 6,7,8.  That leaves 195 kids in the lower grades, say 32-33 per grade.  The school still gets their 9 teachers, but how to divide them up?  The lower grades are big and the upper grades are small, but there aren’t enough teachers to split any classes and again, CPS isn’t going to “give” the school new teachers just because some of the grades went over 28 kids.  Now the question is, how big DOES a grade need to get for CPS to give them another teacher, even though the overall school formula doesn’t provide them with one.  That, I don’t know.

So that is one way that schools end up with large class sizes.  I’ve heard that schools in some of the highly popular schools, such as Edgebrook have gone up to 40 kids per class.  This may be due to lack of space, I’m not quite sure.  All I know is that the tipping point at which a school gets teaching help seems higher than it should be.

The grade size discrepancy problem often occurs as schools are in the midst of attracting new “clientele.”   Schools who saw their enrollment decline are suddenly facing an onslaught of K kids and it disrupts the balance of teacher allocation.  My neighborhood school set up a mixed-grade K-1 class to avoid big class sizes, but the parents of the 1st graders weren’t happy.  Basically, when the teacher allocation doesn’t work, someone will always end up feeling screwed over.  ALSO… CPS doesn’t make the final allocation until something like the 20th day of school, so often kids are in huge classes or changes are made a few weeks into school.  (again, unhappy parents who have a beloved teacher yanked away from their child who has finally adjusted to starting school!)

I do wonder why teacher’s aides aren’t used more often.  The tuition-based PreK’s use them (maybe PreK for All too?)  I think the pay is around $12 and people need an associates degree?  Jeez, would this not be a perfect job for moms with kids in school?  Retired people?  Even a couple floating aides per school could help out different classrooms as needed.  Or one for 2 K classes to share.  I mean, we all know it’s not a priority for some reason (money) but it sure would be nice.

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CPS Data – ISATs online, No big CPS book printed this year New magnet application process – limit of 20?

22 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jen  |  September 15, 2010 at 7:34 pm

    My son is in Skinner West classical kindergarten this year, and there are 30 kids in his class. I’m very grateful it’s not 37, but I was surprised to hear 30, since they don’t have to take everyone in the neighborhood — I thought the Classical and Gifted classrooms had a firm cap at 28…

  • 2. Grace  |  September 16, 2010 at 6:54 am

    Edison and other schools use student-teachers as aides. If your school is interested, it’s easy to contact the dean of education at any respected university.

  • 3. dazed and confused  |  September 16, 2010 at 2:00 pm

    Jen- my daughter was at Skinner West last year kindergarten and she also had 30 kids. While I couldn’t imagine that many kids in a classroom at that age and it not being chaos- having volunteered weekly in there I can tell you that those kids were so amazingly well behaved the teacher could have managed 35 without a blink of an eye. I spent time in both rooms and felt the same about the other class.

    Also to report on class size – on the flip side -I was surprised to find out last night that my daughter’s class this year [at Decatur] was 25!! how did THAT happen? LOVE IT!!

  • 4. reposting my post from other thread  |  September 16, 2010 at 6:47 pm

    My son’s classical 3rd grade has 27 because two students transferred at the last minute. My other son’s magnet 6th grade has 31 because one student transferred at the last minute. Many principals over enroll to keep the “specials”.

  • 5. momof2  |  September 16, 2010 at 9:00 pm

    My two children attend a classical school. There are 30 students in each of their classrooms this year, just like last year.

  • 6. SkinnerWestMom  |  September 17, 2010 at 5:45 pm

    My son is also in the Classical Program at Skinner West. On the first day, the teacher told me she had 32 students on her list. It may have changed since then. And I did notice that his classroom had like 20 boys and 12 girls. They do have an assistant teacher that the 2 Classical Kindergarten classes share. The teachers say she helps out a great deal.

    Jen – Not sure if you have Ms. W or Ms. G. My son has Ms. G. and my daughter had Ms. W a couple of years ago. I’ve noticed they are very different.

  • 7. Really?  |  September 17, 2010 at 8:24 pm

    I was glad to find this thread because my daughter, who is in the 4th grade classical program at Skinner West, just informed me that there are 37 kids in her class, 38 in the other – and 5 new kids were accepted in the grade this year. What?

    Before I officially complain and ask how this could have happened, I do need to validate this with the teacher and get her take on it. In the meantime, I’m curious if there are other 4th grade parents out there in this same situation. It seems outrageous to me.

  • 8. SkinnerWestMom  |  September 18, 2010 at 1:06 am

    @Really? – Yes, your daughter is correct. The Kindergarten teacher did inform me on the first day of school that the 4th grade had the highest number of students in one classroom. She told me that one of the classrooms had 39 students on the roster.

  • 9. Really?  |  September 18, 2010 at 6:36 am

    SkinnerWestMom – Thank you for the confirmation! I don’t understand why they would add 5 more kids to the mix when class size was already questionable last year. 3rd grade was hard enough with all the homework, getting enough individual attention from the teacher was just not possible. I hope they have a better plan this year to make up for it with assistants.

  • 10. Hawthorne mom  |  September 18, 2010 at 11:03 am

    I think TA’s aren’t used more often because, while the pay is actually really bad, the positions come with full family benefits (which are actually really good). When you figure that cost in, a TA is pretty expensive. A good TA is worth their weight in gold.

  • 11. dazed and confused  |  September 18, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    it’s my understanding that in 3rd grade the classes expand and more slots open up. i think your number is about right.

  • 12. Laura  |  September 20, 2010 at 1:19 pm

    @RHawthorne mom – I wonder if the TAs are represented by a union. If not, CPS could probably reduce the operating expense by employing a workeforce of part-time TAs who do not qualify for benefits. The other option would be to raise funds through a foundation (independent of the school) and hire part-time TA’s (with a different title) to work in the classroom (at $12/hour). The Chicago Public Library/ the Chicago Public Library Foundation has this type of relationship. There are certain positions that work in the libraries that are funded by the Foundation, not the City.

  • 13. anonymous  |  September 20, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    I have a 4th grader in a gifted program. Class has 26 kids and a student teacher.

  • 14. Hawthorne mom  |  September 20, 2010 at 2:09 pm

    The TA’s are represented by a union as they should be. Most TA’s don’t really make what I’d consider a living wage. At least they have benefits provided to them. Really, we should all have medical insurance, but that is a different conversation.
    But, there could be additional aides hired. There was (or is, not sure if they are still going) a school in Logan Square that hired and trained parents to work for minimum wage, part time, as aides in their school. This worked beautifully for the school. I want to say it is Monroe? A friend of mine helped start the program more than ten years ago.

  • 15. Laura  |  September 20, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    @Hawthorne mom – I know that Darwin Elementary School in Logan Square did this through the Annenberg program as a part of the “welfare-to-work” initiative in the mid-90’s. Perhaps Monroe had/has a similar program.

  • 16. adad  |  September 21, 2010 at 8:56 am

    #13 – Wow! I didn’t know academic utopia existed in cps! Congratulations on what every parent here wishes for!

  • 17. chicago mom  |  September 24, 2010 at 10:47 am

    We are in 1st grade at Hawthorne…33 kids in my dd’s class (there were 31 in the class last year for Kindergarten)

  • 18. NW Side mom  |  September 28, 2010 at 11:12 am

    My son is a 1st grade Options program that had 28 kids last year, but this year they only have 26. Several kids moved or changed schools and they did not fill all of the open spots.

  • 19. KS  |  September 29, 2010 at 9:31 am

    Just for a point of reference, my kids are both in the Classical program at Skinner North. My kindergartener has 27 kids in his class and my 1st grader has 29 kids in hers. I am actually quite pleased with these numbers. I also have to add that the school year has been off to a wonderful start. As a new family to the school, we are very happy. So far so good….

  • 20. Scared of CPS  |  October 6, 2010 at 6:05 pm

    I feel like I’m losing my mind. So it sounds like class sizes of almost 30 are the norm in K-3 classes for CPS. This is almost twice the suggested size (both nationally and at a state level). I feel like I need to sell my house ASAP since even the “good” schools have a 28/29 kids per class with no aides in K and 1st grade. That’s crazy!

  • 21. Hawthorne mom  |  October 17, 2010 at 7:56 pm

    @#20, There are many really good, solid suburban schools with class sizes below 20 at the K and 1st grade level. Many of those even have full time aides as well. I believe Evanston was somewhere between 15-20, Broadview (not great scores) in the western suburbs was at 14-16, and Brookfield was below 20 as well. Wilmette, Winnetka and the like will all also be around there. You’d have to tour and really check into things since not all suburbs are created equal. But there are still quite a few suburban districts with nice small class sizes.
    I love our school here in the city, and my one and only complaint is that there are 32 kids in the classrooms. Our only saving grace is that kids are split up for the main reading block into groups of 15 or less (in 1st) and in K there are aides and reading and writing support teachers too. But really, no primary classroom should ever be above 20. Ever. It is a terrible reality of CPS that we have so many more than that.

  • 22. Overcrowding everywhere  |  November 8, 2011 at 11:44 pm

    Just so we are clear, overcrowding is a problem for every district in the country (on and off again). Look up overcrowding in Winnetka District 36. Look it up in Wheaton. i think we worry about it more than it is holding our kids back.

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