Sudden increase in third grade enrollment causes concerns over class sizes

Teachers send letter to school board opposing reduction of third grade sections from five to four

— The addition of at least five new students to the third grade class in recent weeks — and typically more new students will sign up during the summer — would create an average class size of about 26 students for four teachers. If the district decided to keep rather than eliminate the fifth classroom for third grade, the class sizes would be reduced to about 21 per teacher.

The issue is not just about student numbers and classroom management, the teachers stated, but also about the impact such high numbers would have on day-to-day learning, the third grade state test scores and implementation of the new federal and state Common Core standards.

Another impact is on teacher evaluations, since the new state-mandated Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) more directly ties a teacher’s professional performance review to student growth and achievement.

“We knew the [classroom] numbers were high going into the budget process, but we did not expect to get five new students,” Dubik said at the meeting. “That really threw the numbers up high. These numbers are high for us.”

Dubik said, however, that many other schools have class sizes of such high numbers, and Cazenovia middle and high school have both had class sizes of 25 and 26 in years past. He added that research shows that class size has no effect on academic achievement after second grade.

Dubik said the district continually monitors the number of incoming students during every summer — since that is the usual time for new student registration — and will continue to monitor the third grade situation as well. He said it is “not uncommon” for the district to hire additional teachers in August due to changes in enrollment.

The district currently has the salary of one high school social studies teacher position available in the budget, after it was specially added for a teacher who then left the district. The school board has not yet decided whether to hire an additional high school social studies teacher with that funding or allocate the money someplace else, but it could be used for a fifth third grade teaching position, Dubik said. He said the district may also have one “unanticipated teacher opening” this summer, and, if that occurs, the district will “look to possibly reallocate that money.”

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