What Class Size Means



Concerning the overcrowded classes in Payson: people need to realize that class size is not the same as pupil to teacher ratio.

When I was teaching in the Valley years ago, and my classes were all well over the negotiated maximum class size, I complained. My supervisor politely told me that “class size” was determined by taking the entire student population of the school and dividing that number by the number of certificated employees — including those who did not actually teach, such as counselors and librarians. Also included were very tiny special education classes. So we English teachers ended up with classes as much as 10 students above the official “class size.” What a contrast to my early years of teaching in a Midwestern city where one day the sophomore English teachers were called to a meeting to be told that because all of us had the actual maximum class size in all our classes, and a new student had enrolled, another teacher would be hired. All of us contributed four or five students from each of our classes to the new teacher, thus ensuring that none of us was over our limit.

That is what true class size means. It means that it takes only 10 hours to adequately grade essays from classes with a maximum of 24 students rather than more than 14 hours if class size is 35. It means that teachers give individual attention to students during class rather than merely work on putting out fires. It means teachers are able to focus on students’ individual learning styles. It also means that teachers are better able to communicate individually with more parents to improve student achievement.

If the Payson district has to bite the bullet elsewhere and hire more teachers so that actual class size is appropriate, then so be it. The most important thing that we can give our community’s children is a good education, and that will not happen without reasonable class sizes. We lose that to the next generation.

Vicki Shulman


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