Posts filed under ‘Class size’

Class Size Disparities

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.


September 15, 2010 at 4:21 pm 22 comments

Class size and the September Shuffle

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.

October 8, 2008 at 1:34 pm 6 comments

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