Does Size Really Matter?
I was conversing with a friend a few nights ago, who happens to also be a 8th grade math teacher. Some kind of way the conversation lead to us discussing how many students she has in one of her classes. I was more than shocked to hear that she had 35 eighth grade math students in one class. Also, out of those 35 students, 5 of them are students with disabilities, granted there's a special education teacher in the class that helps to manage the responsibility of 5 of the 35 students. This left me thinking more about size and how much it does really matter. Small class sizes are such a necessity no matter what grade level your child is in.
Maximum class sizes does vary depending on grade level and state. In Georgia, kindergarten classes can have as many as 20 students with a paraprofessional in the classroom. For 1st thru 3rd grades the maximum number is 21, in grades 4th -8th it's 28 students, and 32-35 students in high-school classes. Now, we know that these class sizes are not what you really see if you stepped into any one of these grade levels. To illustrate, as a kindergarten teacher, I had 26 students in my class for several months of the school year, as opposed to the state limit of 20.
As a teacher, we try our very best to teach to all students and meet the needs of all students, however it just isn't realistic, especially in a 60 minute middle or high-school classroom. The whole idea from a teacher's perspective is that she wants to reach as many students as possible in the amount of time she has. Given this, it only makes sense to teach to the majority. If most of her students are on or above grade level, she will tailor her lessons to meet those students where they are, and should do everything possible to pull her below grade level students into a small group to remediate skills. To do this with fidelity, it takes proper planning and consistency. But, lets look at it from a different perspective. What if most of the students in a class are functioning below level, and your child is on or above grade level, who gets left behind in this scenario? As a result, class size does matter, and small class sizes promotes successful student outcomes.
When teaching in a traditional school setting, at the beginning of each school year, I always gave my students a learning style inventory to determine their style of learning, which is much easier to accommodate when class sizes are small, not to mention there is the potential of less distractions and behavior concerns when class sizes are kept small, and teachers have more flexibility to use non-traditional methods of teaching.