Over the last two weeks, I have shared information about class size issues in the district. I would like to conclude the series this week by looking at how we track enrollment and issues of class size during the course of the year.
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. Knowing that many factors affect student performance, efforts to keep the class sizes as reasonable as possible is a priority for our school district.
TRACKING OVERALL ENROLLMENT
It is a regular practice of the school board to review enrollment information on a monthly basis. We track our enrollment figures for the first school day of the month for each month of the school year.
The chart included shows the enrollment for the current school year. There are several elements that help guide our process. The first column simply identifies the grade level. The second column shows the pupil weighting—the value that each student has at the Department of Education for funding purposes. Elementary students are all valued at one pupil unit while secondary students are valued at 1.2 student units.
The third column shows the projected enrollment for the school year. This is important because it reflects the numbers on which our district budget was based and developed. For the school year, then, we projected that we would have 2025 students. This projection is used to determine the number of teachers, class sections, and course options that are offered for the school year so it is an important number to establish each spring.
The next column is a quick summary. It compares the current enrollment to the projected enrollment to show how many students more or less are enrolled than expected. The next column offers a comparison, as we expect to start the school year, of how much enrollment changed over the summer from the budget projection.
After that, each column represents the enrollment for the month. We take the enrollment on the first day of school for the month. The monthly totals are tracked for the year. The change of color from month to month is intended to show whether enrollment increased, decreased, or remained the same as the month prior.
The last two columns of the chart reflect the enrollment change from one month to the next and show an average of enrollment for the year.
Across the bottom is a number that is important for financial purposes. The line labeled, Total Pupil Units, reflects the multiplication of the number of students by the weighting factor (second column). Pupil units determine the funding in the state formula. The bottom number, then, allows us to track our projected pupil units against the actual pupil unit level. In this case, the average, at the end of the chart, is important because the state funding most closely is reflected in the average pupil units for the year.
TRACKING CLASS SIZE
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 part of tracking enrollment information, we also look at some base information about class size—especially at the elementary level. As you can see from the chart below, we show the class size policy guidelines on the left side of the summary. We then show the number of students projected for enrollment as we built our budget last spring. These two elements are used as a guide to the effects of actual enrollment.
The third column on the chart should match the last column on the chart in documenting the enrollment for the month. The third column is included simply to allow a quick check of the current enrollment against the projected enrollment. The difference is shown in column four, the “+/-“ column.
After the dark bar, the next column shows the number of sections of regular classrooms across the district. As you can see, the elementary grades have either five or six regular classrooms. The next column (Average Size) reflects the enrollment at the grade level divided by the number of classroom sections to show what the average is for classrooms at the grade level. This is a number that we use to compare against the class size policy. The comparison indicates whether or not, across the district, we are meeting the policy expectations.
The next three columns reflect the enrollment at the grade level at each school site. Cold Spring Elementary, of course, has more than one section at each grade level while Richmond and Rockville are both “single-section” schools—meaning there is only one classroom (single section) at each grade level. At the bottom of these columns, the enrollment by school building is reflected as the grade level enrollments are totaled.
The columns titled CSE show the classroom enrollment within each regular classroom at the site. This allows us to do a more direct comparison in regard to the individual class size against the policy standards. We “color code” this area to allow us to more readily see the number of classrooms that are below the policy expectations (blue), at the expectations (black), or higher (red) than the policy standard expects.
The chart underneath gives a summary of that information. In February, for example, we had one classroom at the elementary level with a class size higher than our policy expectations. We had sixteen of 34 classrooms with enrollment below or lower than our policy expectations. We had seventeen classrooms at the policy guidelines.
Enrollment information and monitoring class size is important to us. 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.