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When we say “Class Size Reduction . . .”

. . . we are talking about kids being in high school classes of 23 instead of 35. We are talking about fifth grade classes of 20 instead of 30.

Based on the class size data that the Department of Education released last week, they’ve been thinking a tad more incrementally. Like, this year average K-3 classes were reduced by about two-tenths of a child. Grades 4-5 are down six-tenths of a child; middle schools are down seven-tenths of one kid. (High schools are not comparable with last year’s methodology.)

Incremental is better than nothing, sure. But with the Campaign for Fiscal Equity money finally coming in, and with such a powerful call for lower class sizes by parents, students and teachers in the school surveys, one could be forgiven for expecting a whole lot more.

Over at Eduwonkette blog, there has been a terrific discussion this week and last on the importance of class size, with two people who both advocate smaller classes disagreeing in interesting ways about the impact and the implementation. One is a parent and one is a teacher, but both are clear that this is a reform that can really transform teaching and learning.

Keeping that in mind, what does the new DOE class size report reveal?

1. This year’s reductions are fractional (op. cit.).

2. There are still 1,109 general ed classes and 442 special ed classes that exceed already-high contractual limits. Districts 28, 2 and 21, in that order, have the most oversized classes. Districts 27, 31, 10, 26 and 20 also have a lot of them.

3. Six percent of all kindergarten classes in the city are over the contract limit of 25. Four percent of all grade 7 and 8 classes exceed the limit of 33. Even more troubling, almost half (49 percent) of all special education classes that call for a 15:1 ratio of students to teacher are bigger than that; 29 percent of 8:1:1 classes exceed that limit.

4. Amongst classes that do not exceed contract limits but are still WAY big, there are 1,496 classes of 4th and 5th graders that are 30 students or more; 5,526 classes of 6-9th graders at 30 and up; and (ready?) 41,806 high school classes of 30 or more (this may well involve the same students several times).

5. The largest classes in the system are in the high schools AND CTT classrooms and gifted and talented classes. High school science and math classes, especially chemistry and geometry, are especially packed.

This is simply not right.

The DOE can dispute the research on the importance of class size. People can disagree about how small classes really need to be. Educators can talk about the need to balance teacher quality improvement and class size reduction. But as “Skoolboy,” the blogger at Eduwonkette said, “Let’s champion smaller classes because it’s the right thing to do for teachers … and for children, not because reducing class size will increase standardized test scores by x%.”

Exactly. It’s not human to teach or learn in classrooms this large packed with young and often very needy students. Not human at all.

Oh, Happy New Year, Joel.



  • 1 MichaelB
    · Jan 2, 2008 at 8:46 pm

    I’ll accept whatever class sizes they have at the private schools where kids with names like Bloomberg and Spitzer attend.

    I’d also like my children(my students and my own kids) to have whatever standardized-test-prep regimen those schools have.

  • 2 Eduwonkette: Kid Nation: An Overview of the K-3 Class Size Data
    · Jan 3, 2008 at 4:23 pm

    […] show.I know this isn’t news to anyone familiar with NYC schools – but wow. Also, check out edwize’s post on NYC class size for more details. I’ll take a closer look at other grades […]

  • 3 Blogboard: No Common Denominator
    · Jan 3, 2008 at 6:51 pm

    […] blogger Maisie is a bit confused. She thought that class size reduction actually meant reducing the number of kids in the classroom. Luckily, the New York City Department […]

  • 4 jd2718
    · Jan 3, 2008 at 7:41 pm

    Help me, Maisie.

    Do they actually report that geometry classes are large? Someone might tell them, since they run this school system, that there are currently no geometry classes in most NYC high schools.


  • 5 sharichez
    · Jan 4, 2008 at 10:13 pm

    If you pick one of the most dangerous classes to pack full with students, I would choose chemistry! I couldn’t believe it when I saw chemistry mentioned in the original post. Picture 30+ students working with chemicals and/or open flames OR a lab class where students don’t get to participate in labs because of the threat of danger. Research shows that the safest science lab classes have no more than 24 students. I can’t imagine allowing more than 30 students in a class and not expecting some sort of problem! I wonder how quickly the standards would change when the administrators are faced with a lawsuit!

  • 6 Maisie
    · Jan 7, 2008 at 4:50 pm

    Sorry but no help for you, Jonathan or sharichez,

    District 2: One CTT Geometry class at 31 and 7 CTT Chemistry classes at an average 31.3.
    District 3: 18 (!) gen ed geometry classes at an average of 33
    District 4: 30 (!!) gen ed chemistry classes at an average 31.7
    District 14: 3 CTT chemistry classes averaging 30
    Distrct 15: one geometry class at 34

    I’ll stop there but I ain’t making this stuff up. Of course, their data could be wrong…

  • 7 Columbus Education Association » Blog Archive » Let's Carnival-- The Carnival of Education!
    · Jan 8, 2008 at 11:19 pm

    […] UFT continues to champion class size reduction throughout its schools, despite the troubling fact that tens of thousands of […]