As states struggle to balance their budgets, education will be affected on many levels. The protests in Wisconsin highlighted the grim reality of cut backs in teacher’s compensation and benefits, and now many states will be increasing class sizes.
Although there has been debate over whether or not smaller classes are better, the prevailing wisdom says that students who get more individual attention will perform better. In any case, increasing class sizes also increases teacher’s workload. “If you’ve gained five kids, that’s five more papers to grade, five more kids who need makeup work if they’re absent, five more parents to contact, five more e-mails to answer,” math teacher Rachael Maher told The New York Times. “It gets overwhelming.”
Los Angeles has increased the average size of its ninth grade math and English classes from 20 to 34, and for high school juniors and seniors these classes average 43 students. In New York City, the average elementary class has increased from 21.8 students to 23.7 since 2008. In Detroit, authorities are considering increasing classes to 60 students.
Advocates of smaller classes are frustrated, yet many districts feel they have little choice.