November 15, 2011
Classes grew most this year in kindergarten through third grade, where the average size increased by just under one student since last year to 23.1. On average, classes in those grades are now three students larger than they were in the 2006-2007 school year. They are largest in Queens and Staten Island and smallest in Manhattan.
Classes in those grades are now the largest they have been since 1998, according to a PowerPoint presentation prepared by parent activist Leonie Haimson for Class Size Matters, a group that she runs to advocate for smaller classes.
Class sizes have also inched up in upper elementary, middle, and high school grades, but not by as much, according to the city’s new numbers.
In all grades, average class sizes exceed the goals set forth in the 2007 Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit settlement, which required the state to earmark extra funds for New York City schools to use for six different purposes, including reducing class size.
Haimson’s presentation argues that the class size increases show that the city has misused the funds, known as Contracts for Excellence funds.
The city has argued that it has used the funds appropriately but cannot undo the effects of contracting state and local school budgets. When the UFT released its preliminary tally of oversized classes in September, a Department of Education spokesman, acknowledged that class sizes were likely to grow but downplayed the shift’s significance, saying that teacher quality trumped class size.
Today, another DOE spokeswoman, Barbara Morgan, said the increase was not as large as officials had believed possible. In May, when teacher layoffs were on the table, Chancellor Dennis Walcott warned that classes could grow by an average of two students.
“As a consequence of nearly $1.7 billion in state and federal budget cuts, we fully anticipated that class sizes would rise modestly and we are pleased that the increase is below what we initially projected,” Morgan said in a statement.
“We do expect class sizes to rise modestly as a consequence of nearly $1.7 billion in state and federal budget cuts that have forced us to more with less,” Thomas said at the time. “But we believe that getting effective teachers into every classroom is the most important stepping stone to student success, and we will continue to work toward that goal.”