PD Pick of the Week: Smaller class sizes

By: PD Endorsed School Board Member Anna Mueller Moffit

The Board of Education will be considering a budget amendment that will include lower class sizes in our youngest grades at our high poverty schools, and other limits on class size (the final version will be available the week of June 19th). Small class has been a longstanding evidenced-based practice that has been highly effective for closing achievement gaps for low-income students, students with disabilities, students that are English language learners, as well as students of color.

After the passage of Act 10, Gov. Walker gave school districts the right to increase class sizes in high poverty schools by discontinuing the SAGE program and replacing it with the Achievement Gap Reduction standards. Prior to AGR, SAGE classes were capped at 15, and it was then changed to 18 students. AGR was then introduced to create more cost savings, since state aid was being cut every year. The AGR standard now allows districts to increase class sizes in high poverty schools to 18 with an additional 1 or 2 students added if necessary. The trend of increasing class size over the past ten years is wrong and negatively impacts student learning and outcomes. We currently have a significant number of classes that are at, or near, the maximum number in our high poverty schools. A coalition of parents and teachers have researched the number of classrooms in our district with higher class sizes and determined that an additional 40 classrooms would need to be added to create classrooms that more closely align with the STAR study research (16-18 students).

https://www.princeton.edu/futureofchildren/publications/docs/05_02_08.pdf http://media.jrn.com/documents/sage_2015_evaluation.pdf

I am asking that folks who are in support of this effort reach out to the Board of Education and let them know that this is a priority for our district and should be part of the 2017/18 budget. There will also be a regular Board of Education meeting held on June 26th at 6pm in the Doyle Building in which public comments can be shared in regard to this issue. A final proposal will be submitted by June 19th, but emails are welcome prior to either date.

Some important points to consider:

  • smaller class sizes allows teachers to better differentiate for a wide variety of learners; smaller class sizes provides teachers more time to develop and maintain strong relationships with their students
  • smaller class sizes have been proven to have the greatest impact in reducing achievement gaps for students of color or living in poverty; smaller class sizes decreases the practice of segregating students with disabilities and ELL students
  • smaller class sizes increase the likelihood of having strong connections built between classmates that lead to a great sense of connectedness and belonging.

Thanks for taking the time to consider this ask. 

Anna Moffit