Jordan-Elbridge: Smaller classes help students learn

Herne, 36, has been a teacher for 15 years, 10 of them at Ramsdell. He is now able to conduct a better group reading program, a new addition to the curriculum. In September, Herne had about seven students in a group and created makeshift reading areas where everyone carried over his or her chair and book. With 20 students, he was able to buy a large round table that can fit in the room, and reduce his group sizes to five or six.

Teachers assign the same amount of homework as they did in September. But class is quieter, teachers aren't rushing through lessons, and the overall atmosphere has improved.

"It's still the same prep time," he said. "A few more papers to correct isn't going to lengthen my day much. I'm able to do more in a day now. I've been able to get through just about everything in my lesson plans."

Herne, in his eighth year of teaching third grade, said he realizes how important this particular year is for the students. Ramsdell houses third-, fourth- and fifth-graders in the district, so students are adjusting to a new building. They also will take standardized tests in English Language Arts (in January) and math (in March) for the first time in their academic careers.

Switching classrooms

"I think that the superintendent, principal and board started the year in good faith," said Kathleen Gugel, a third-grade parent. "However, when concerns were brought to their attention, they gave the matter serious consideration and acted within a reasonable timeline."

Gugel, a seventh-grade special education teacher at Elbridge Elementary School, said she had heard parents voicing concerns in the spring. Gugel's 8-year-old daughter, Abigail, started the year in Joan Frood's class, the same teacher that Gugel's older son Jack had in third grade. Gugel said Frood is energetic and creative and that Abigail was excited to have her.

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