Average class sizes increase from previous years

September 10, 2019 — by Emilie Zhou

When sophomore Cheryl Wu walked into her AP Computer Science classroom on the first day of school, she was surprised to see that all the desks were arranged in groups of four, except for her table group which consisted of only three desks and a chair for four students — meaning she had limited space to work in.

“It’s kind of inconvenient [to not have enough desks in a classroom] because then you don’t have a space to do your work,” Wu said. “It also feels like maybe the school is not managing this too well for there not to be enough desks because it’s the most basic furnishing you need in a classroom.” 

Many students and teachers have noticed that some of their classes this year seem larger than in previous years. For example, history teacher Kirk Abe has noticed that all of his classes are larger this year and has had to add an extra row of desks to his classroom. His AP Government and Economics classes have around 33 to 34 students and his World History class has increased to around 32 to 33 students. 

According to assistant principal Brian Safine, 47 percent of the classes this year, or 121 classes, have 30 or more students. This number has increased from last year when only 38 percent of classes, or 97 classes, had over 30 students. 

In addition, the current average class size has also increased from last year from 27.5 to 28.3 students per class, Safine said. The number has increased this year, but the average has usually hovered around 28 students in past years, he said.

“Increased class sizes could come from a variety of factors, but probably the biggest factor is that the last senior class we graduated was small and the current freshman class is average sized so we’ve had a net increase in students, but we didn’t dramatically add to the number of teachers,” Safine said. “The teacher staffing is essentially flat so classes are a little more full than average.”

According to Los Gatos High guidance counselor Louis Rich, Los Gatos currently has a student population of 2,173 enrolled students and a higher average class size of 28.8 students. Los Gatos High has had a steady increase in student population, but they’ve added new staff members to keep the class sizes at a consistent number between 27.5 and 29 students, Rich said. 

Although Los Gatos High has recently added new classrooms, including a new music building, to accommodate the increase in the number of students, the school also experienced problems that have “created their own pressures.” For example, Rich said they can’t fit the entire student body into the gym without violating the fire code limit and have had to split presentations across multiple days because they can’t fit an entire grade into the theater anymore. 

At Saratoga High, the current number of classes with more than 30 students and the average class size is the highest it has been in the last four years, causing certain classes to feel fuller than before. The increases may have had little impact for some teachers, while other teachers have been hard hit.

For physics and business teacher Kirk Davis, it becomes harder to share lab equipment when there are more than 32 students. He currently has one physics class with 34 students, but thinks that the labs can be easily altered to accommodate for extra students. 

“Having more students makes it more complicated,” Davis said. “I think that most teachers would prefer smaller classes, as you can give a lot more attention to an individual kid and have fewer students sharing the lab equipment.”

This year, French teacher Elaine Haggerty also faced a challenging situation when she decided to split her classes differently. Unlike last year, Haggerty decided to split her French 3 and AP French classes due to the increased number of students taking French 3 this year. As a result, she ended up having a  French 1 class with 42 students.

“The French 1 students are doing fantastic with it,” Haggerty said. “The students are doing fine and they’re not bothered or distracted by the fact that every single seat is filled or not. But hopefully next year, it’ll be back to normal-sized classes.”

While Haggerty usually asks students to circulate around the room for various activities, she realizes that “that’s going to be impossible” to do with 42 students. Instead, Haggerty plans to bring her students to the student center or the foreign language lab in order to do these activities. 

Despite the slight increase in class sizes this year, some have also been concerned that the overall population of the school is decreasing. To this point, Safine said, there haven’t been any drastic changes in the size of incoming classes, although classes at Redwood Middle School may appear to be getting smaller. 

“For many years, we’ve heard that there are smaller classes at Redwood, but we don’t always see a corresponding reduction in students here,” Safine said. “I think we have a lot of students who join us as high school students from places other than Redwood. At some point, we may see smaller classes and a reduction in total students, but we haven’t seen that yet.”

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Comments

Teachers are extra stressed, students find themselves getting less one-on-one attention, and the classroom environment is just less engaging when there's so many voices that need to be included in one discussion. The school needs to look into limiting class sizes, even at the cost of students not getting into courses they want to take, because it's always an option to take courses at West Valley, or to simply take the L (we have alternative courses marked for a reason!). I'm not sure what the issue is... we've replaced the teachers that retired last year, so there doesn't seem to be a shortage, and the upperclassman class sizes haven't dramatically increased, or really increased at all, over the summer, so why do half my classes have 30+ kids??

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