School & District Management Opinion

Decrease Class Size, Increase Learning

By Starr Sackstein — October 20, 2016 2 min read
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Regardless of the genetic makeup of any given class, too many students is a recipe for disaster and yet many districts keep student caps excessively high and wonder why student achievement isn’t improving.

It is physically impossible for one teacher to meet with 34 students in a high school classroom individually every day, if we want that time to be meaningfully spent. Every child deserves to feel like the teacher is available to help with particular needs and struggles, but if the teacher slows down enough to address any one child, there is a chance many others will lose out.

How can we solve this never ending problem?

It’s simple, reduce the class sizes or put more teachers in classes that must remain larger.

Setting up routines and rituals that allow students to take ownership of their learning takes time and if we want to do it so it works, and lessens the burden on the teacher, then we need to at least teach students these expectations across school settings in smaller classes like advisory and there must be a level of consistency kept.

Large classes can often be unwieldy to even the most successful and accomplished teachers and rather than spending time watching students flourish, teachers spend time managing behavior.

We can all agree, that this is not what school should look like, yet in many places this is what happens.

All or many of the following challenges can occur when there are too many kids in one room:

  • increased probability of distraction or distractable behavior
  • less time spent on instruction
  • group work can be impeded
  • students don’t get the close attention and feedback they require to succeed
  • higher likelihood of incidents that can escalate
  • less freedom to let students lead the lessons because there isn’t much space to move around
  • creativity can be stifled because the pace can be stop and go
  • attendance can also be an issue in larger classes which also leads to other challenges
  • loss of personal touch
  • difficulty building rapport and relationships with all students

In addition to the impact of having too many kids in a classroom, the additional workload for teachers outside of school assessing work and differentiating lessons appropriately can lead to accelerated teacher burn out. Let’s face it working with more kids at once is more exhausting. We expend more energy to try to get them where they need to be.

If class sizes aren’t going to be addressed because of bottom lines, either because of a lack of teacher resources or school funding, then we are going to have to find a way to function better inside of these undesirable situations.

What’s your best tip for working with larger classes and meeting students’ needs effectively without burning out? Please share

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