School should keep English 9 classes small

January 26, 2010 — by Staff Editorial

America’s recession may be technically over, but the budget woes of schools in California aren’t disappearing. In the face of a $3 million projected deficit for the 2010-2011 school year, the Los Gatos-Saratoga High School District is making cuts in the classroom, potentially growing the size of English 9 classes to 28 or beyond—a serious detriment to students and a regrettable move by school officials.

The idea to reduce the amount of classes, thereby increasing class sizes, might seem like a good idea on paper. The cuts could save money by decreasing the number of sections and therefore teachers, and, besides, there’s probably enough room to squeeze 30 tiny freshmen in an English classroom, right?

Wrong. The transition from middle school to high school is a tremendous one, and smaller English classes for freshmen can immensely benefit students in their freshman year and beyond.
Coming from St. Andrew’s School, a small private middle school, I found it comforting that I had at least one class where I knew almost everybody and where I wasn’t afraid to raise my hand and ask questions. For me, it was a major factor in helping me adjust to the new atmosphere.

Some might say that, since high school students should be able to get help when they need it, increasing classes for freshmen shouldn’t really affect academic performance. People who say this probably do not accurately remember what being a freshman is really like. Getting used to a new campus, shouldering harder classes and dealing with high school drama is a big deal, and it’s easy to get lost in the daily shuffle. English 9, however, is supposed to help freshmen deal with the sudden transition by providing a comfortable setting for them to learn and adjust. English 9, at least, is supposed to be different from the rest of high school.

By maintaining a low student to teacher ratio (about 20-1), freshman English teachers can give students the individual attention that students deserve and, in the case of freshmen, absolutely need to succeed. A smaller class size forces students to actively participate in the classroom since no student can sit in the corner, outside the view of the teacher. They also tend to write more and receive more individual attention.

Studies have also shown that students interact better with their peers in such a setting. On the other hand, in large classes, students who struggle may not be heard and will not receive help. Some students will slip through the cracks, an inevitability only worsened by the fact that many of these students are freshmen already working hard to adjust to high school life. Smaller class sizes create immense benefits for students both educationally and socially, but there is a catch.

Of course, much like with everything else, higher quality learning comes with a higher price tag. But that doesn’t mean we can or should erase small classes entirely. Instead, the school should re-prioritize next year’s to-do list and find other places to cut. In a previous Falcon article regarding the growing deficit, principal Jeff Anderson remarked that “Hopefully, [students’] education will not be impacted at all.” In that case, increasing English 9 class sizes is perhaps the worst way to balance the school’s checkbook.

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