CLASS SIZE ISSUES—Part II
Last week, I shared information about class size issues in the district. I thought I would take a little time this week to finish the information from that article.
REVIEW OF CLASS SIZE BACKGROUND
The common perception about class size is that the smaller the class size, the better the environment must be in the classroom. There is some validity to these issues, but education research doesn’t indicate the impact is quite as strong as most believe. We do believe that there is cause for monitoring and being attentive to class size. Knowing that many factors affect student performance, efforts to keep the class sizes as reasonable as possible is a priority for our school district.
In the ROCORI School District, we have a class size policy that guides our practices and processes. Our policy is based on the overall idea that a smaller class size is desirable—especially at the lower age ranges. The policy, however, does acknowledge that there is not a precise number at any level that is ideal because most of our expected class sizes are built on a range of students. It also recognizes that the older the students get, the less prescriptive the range needs to be.
As a district, we work hard to follow the expectations of our policy. When our budgets and yearly plans are developed, one of the things to which we pay very close attention is enrollment—overall and at each grade level. We also try to regularly compare our class sizes (both the policy expectations and our actual class size as students are assigned) to those of our neighbors and comparable schools. We are very proud of the fact that all of our comparisons show our sizes to be very favorable in our region.
Not only do we try to monitor the class sizes, overall, but at the elementary level of the district, we try to keep a sense of balance between the buildings. Because of the way the class size policy and the policy on balancing sections between the buildings work together, we are often required to shift students from site to site in order to maintain the balance and the appropriate size.
At the secondary level, the class size range means that we need to monitor classes that may become very small in nature or very large in nature. In particular, the classes with very small enrollments are challenging to offer. If student interest or skill level does not provide enough students to meet the expectations, the class may not be offered. On the other side of the monitor, there may be some classes that we cannot allow to become “too large”. If we exceed the upper limit of class size, we may need to offer more sections of the course.
ISSUES WE ARE MONITORING
We do have some situations that we regularly monitor. The issues and environment of the classroom can be complicated by factors beyond simply the class size.
Some of the other factors may include the number of students requiring special assistance or specific services, the overall academic performance of the grade level or class, the number of students that may need to move from site to site, history of the group, or other issues.
We also monitor the students that are identified, through several processes, as needing additional intervention or assistance. Our Title program, which has defined eligibility requirements based on several student measures, help to give us some information about the overall academic performance of students. At the middle school, the student performance records also determine the number and scope of Reading and Math support courses that are needed and offered. Classroom progress, test information, and other key indicators will help us to know if additional resources need to be directed toward students or grade levels.
Class size is an important issue to us. Although size, alone, does not necessarily warrant or justify action, we believe it is an important element to student success. As such, we begin our budgeting and staffing processes by reviewing information related to enrollment and projected class sizes. We staff according to what we expect our enrollment to require.
As we build our budget for the next school year, we need to look at enrollment figures. We often make adjustments to sections or course offerings as a response to the projections related to class size. Once the school year starts, we continue to monitor issues related to student performance to determine if we need to make other adjustments or changes. If situations warrant—and we are financially able to do so—we can make staffing adjustments in order to meet student needs.