Smaller class sizes benefit our children academically and socially. Research evidence shows that elementary students who are in smaller class sizes are more advanced and do better in school, are more likely to graduate and attend a post-secondary school, and are more confident and assertive in classroom participation behavior in comparison to their peers who attended larger sized classes.
Currently the class-size standards in California are 24 students to 1 teacher for Grades K-3 and 36 students to one teacher for Grades 4-5. As parents, we want smaller class sizes not only because of the research supporting the benefits, but because we have seen first hand how it impacts the learning and socialization of our children. Class size reduction is a Foundation priority when we plan our annual budget. We believe that funding class size reduction is the Foundation's single most important contribution to the school.
Class size reduction comes at the largest financial costs to the Foundation. As evidenced by the tremendous and continued support from our TPES community, we believe that parents and donors are united in holding this program to be of the most important initiative funded by the Foundation. Thanks to your contributions the Foundation is able to provide the Principal with supplemental funding to ensure that learning groups at all grade levels are at optimal sizes.
From a Teacher's Vantage Point
Small class sizes are critical for students and teachers. Kindergarten is such an important year during which children actively engage in building the foundation onto which all of their future years of education will be built. We hope to send our students to first grade having confidence, skills, and independence as thinkers, readers, writers, problem-solvers, friends, and citizens, but that's virtually unattainable without the ability to spend one-on-one time with each child on a daily basis.
In Kindergarten, teacher and student success is inextricably tied to classroom size, as students at this age require a tremendous amount of individualized attention. Our students come to us with broadly ranging educational needs-we have four years old and six years old, alphabet learners and chapter book readers, children learning how to count and children multiplying and dividing. In addition to the academics, we also have tears to help dry, shoes to tie, discipline issues to tend to, a number of hands-on projects to prepare, and all kinds of unexpected life lessons to address.
A small class size also means that we are able to have a more intimate class community in which children can more actively and fully participate in learning and playing throughout the day. They can have more opportunities to share their talents and interests, to practice their listening and speaking skills, to participate in hands-on tasks, to work in small cooperative groups, and to develop deeper relationships with their peers and teacher.
Kindergarten is an extraordinarily hands-on year and the ability to meet with children individually and in small groups that is afforded by a smaller class size makes all the difference for both students and teachers.
Mrs. Gunn, Kindergarten
As First and Second Grade Teachers at TPES, we find lower class sizes instrumental in providing the rigor needed at a high-achieving school. It is crucial to have small reading groups to meet a variety of levels and have in-depth discussions. It is important to get to know each student's learning style and personality to help us address unique needs and capabilities. Students in the primary grades are developing habits and attitudes about themselves as a learner. With smaller class sizes, teachers have more time to ensure a positive learning experience for all of our students.
Ms. Hilsen, 2nd Grade
Having a smaller class size greatly affects the instruction that a teacher is able to provide to his or her students. Teachers with a smaller class are better able to meet the needs of all students including the high achievers.
As class sizes increase, so do the number of struggling students in one room. A teacher with a large class is compelled to spend more time those students who are having difficulty meeting state standards, while spending less time with the students who have already mastered the standards. Comparatively, in a smaller classroom the number of below proficient students is smaller and more manageable, allowing a teacher to work with all students to find projects or lessons that meet their needs.
Similarly, when a teacher is presenting lessons to the whole group of students, with a smaller classroom it is easier to teach to the advanced students and bring along the few struggling students you have. With a larger classroom your teaching begins to move towards the middle because there is such a large number of students that are not ready for advanced material.
Let's look at one specific example: giving students individualized feedback on a writing assignment. When a teacher is giving students one-on-one feedback on a writing piece, they might spend 10 to 15 minutes together editing and improving a text. With a classroom of 20 students that process might take 40-50 minutes a day for about a week, maybe a bit longer. With a larger class size this process will take about two weeks, a long time for a student to wait to get direct feedback.
Second Grade Teachers
What does a larger class size really mean to Learning and Teaching?
- Some Effects on Learning and Teaching
- Possibly as many as 10 more students per class.
- Less physical room for your child to spend the day.
- Less individual attention in the way of reading conferences and writing conferences.
- Less time in guided reading groups in Grades K-3.
- Less in the way of supplies. We will have to try to do more with less, but more likely will do less with less.
- Less individual time in all subjects, Art, Music, PE, Reading, Math, Science, Social Studies
- Less time for parent contacts and conferences, with 10 more children in the classes.
- Less time for marking papers, reducing immediate student feedback on assignments.
- More children, but the same number of copies available to each teacher will cut down on learning.
- Less opportunity for each child to be heard during the school day.
- Less individual attention to each child, giving teachers less opportunity to really "know" their students.
- More stress for staff contributing to teacher burn out.
Third Grade Teachers
We are so fortunate to work in a school that values smaller class sizes, because a smaller class size nurtures each individual learner. At Torrey Pines Elementary, ours is a thinking curriculum. Students are asked to critically analyze, synthesize, discuss, revise, and confirm their thinking across subjects. Making our practice more effective, smaller class sizes provide students with more opportunities to be heard and to receive frequent feedback from peers and the teacher. The teacher focuses on individual student needs, whether it is providing extra support or added challenge. Each student is engaged and experiences more face time with the teacher in which to confer about reading, writing, and math. Smaller class sizes benefit all of our students at Torrey Pines Elementary.
Erika Saldivar, Fourth Grade
It is unfortunate, but historically, the predominant thinking about upper grades is that older students don't need as much attention as the younger children, so let's put more bodies in the classroom. It is reminiscent of the "Road Not Taken," by Robert Frost. The path of overcrowding upper grade classrooms has "worn down" the ability of kids to succeed at higher levels of education because the support failed them. Thankfully, that has not been the case here at Torrey Pines Elementary and "it has made all the difference." Because we have maintained our low class size in years past (thanks to Foundation funding), we continue to hear from middle school parents about how well-prepared the kids are when they reach sixth grade. Ultimately, lower class sizes mean that we can meet with small groups with greater frequency, especially in reading. With more kids in the room, we would definitely not be able to monitor each student's growth the way we are able to do now. Kids will fall through the cracks and that is not what we need at such a pivotal grade level that bridges the gap to the next level of learning. We must continue to take the "Road Not Taken" because it is what is working for our community as a whole.
David De Vore, Chris Ramirez, Fifth Grade Team