Why Class Size Counts?

FCPS average class sizes vary substantially from one school to another.  This year, one FCPS elementary school has an average class size of 15.4 and many have average class sizes under 20.  Meanwhile, schools like Colvin Run ES, Flint Hill ES, Floris ES, Greenbriar West ES, Keene Mill ES, Mantua ES, McNair ES, Mosby Woods ES, Oak Hill ES, Spring Hill ES and others average about 25 students per class.

AAP Center classes are especially likely to be unusually large, according to documents produced by FCPS in response to a FOIA request.

 Why does this matter?  FCPS teachers were asked whether their class sizes were reasonable, “such that teacher have time to meet the educational needs of all students.”  Teachers in schools with large class sizes were more likely to say they did NOT have enough time for all their students; 44% of the Longfellow MS teachers felt this way, compared to 17% of Poe MS and 23% of Whitman MS teachers.  http://fcpswcs.org/results/report/97/53731

Science teachers have pointed out that they often replace meaningful laboratory experiments with teacher demonstrations or cookbook labs when class sizes exceed 24 students, consistent with science lab safety guidelines issued by the National Science Teachers Association, National Association of Biology Teachers, and the National Science Education Leadership Association.  http://mdk12.org/instruction/curriculum/science/safety/equipment.html

Here are some ways that even our best and hardest-working teachers cope when they have too many students.

  • They stop giving partial credit on tests.
  • They give more multiple choice (bubble) tests.
  • They scale back on classroom projects that need more space.
  • They provide less feedback on student assignments.
  • They provide less supervision and feedback on collaborative, practical exercises and projects.
  • They assign fewer projects that are time-consuming to implement or grade.
  • They “teach to the middle” or “to the bottom,” in a form of instructional triage.

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