Top-scoring Chicago public elementary schools have the largest class sizes in the city, reports the Chicago Sun-Times. Low-scoring schools can afford small classes because students bring extra “poverty” dollars with them, but small classes don’t provide enough boost to help disadvantaged children catch up. In middle-class neighborhoods and at magnet schools, rising scores are attracting middle-class students who supply no extra funding. In addition, some popular schools let class sizes rise above 30 to qualify for extra money for overcrowding, which can be spent to hire aides or to add an art or music teacher.
In 2004-2005, Edgebrook’s sole first-grade room held a whopping 40 students. That year, the school posted the highest test score among the city’s neighborhood schools, yet it had the largest primary class sizes in the six-county area. At least two of its tested grades that year — third and eighth — held 30 or more students.
. . . That year, a second teacher helped part of the day in first grade. This year, even with a new mobile classroom due by January, Edgebrook’s two first-grade rooms will hold 30 and 27 kids. Older grades also are big: fourth- through eighth average 33 to 37 kids.
High-scoring schools tend to have experienced teachers and parents willing to help out in the classroom. Teacher quality trumps class size.
When California reduced class size to 20 students in K-3, middle-class suburban schools hired experienced teachers from urban schools, which had to fill new classrooms with novices, many of whom got frustrated and quit after a year. Because class-size reduction lowered teacher quality in high-poverty schools, the very expensive program had little or no benefit for the neediest students.
Via News Alert.