Jenna Fagut, Katie Tzivanis, and Mariyana Van Arsdale
It affects you, it affects me, and it affects the future of society.
It’s our class sizes.
Each year the student population continues to grow at Jamesville-DeWitt High School. Grade sizes hover around 200 students; however, the senior class has jumped to 245, which is the largest it’s been in 20 years. Many teachers, including math teacher Elizabeth Wood and science teacher Nancy Raicht, were told about the large amount of students moving up to the high school within the next few years. It’s a “bubble” of students, according to Mrs. Wood.
History teacher Eric Ormond believes that larger class sizes are problematic. “It leads to teachers being more rigid, because management is a bigger concern,” said Mr. Ormond whose largest class size is 27 students.
Many teachers find themselves concerned with trying to get every task completed rather than having personal interactions with each student. It becomes more difficult for each teacher to familiarize themselves with every student in their classes and so, there are many kids who become “invisible,” said Mrs. Wood.
Smaller class sizes allow some students to truly express themselves in the small community of their classroom. Senior Jake Harron strongly believes in the power of small class sizes; “I’m more open in a smaller class because if I say something dumb only 10 people hear it.”
Senior Gabrielle Tanksley has a similar belief to Harron. “The smaller the class size, the more I get to know the peers around me. By the end of the year, I feel as if we are more than a class, we are family,” said Tanksley.
Not only does class size affect the student as an individual, it also affects what gets done in the class itself. According to Mrs. Raicht, who has had classes of 30 students in the past few years, large classes are more difficult in the science subject due to lab work and group activities. In a larger class, there must be larger groups, which results in a shortage of equipment and confusion on how to complete the lab. Mrs. Raicht had a difficult time completing some of her labs in biology last year, some even took longer than a period. She didn't have as much time as she usually would to get through all of her material.
Although small class sizes may present many problems for the science department, it may be beneficial for English and History departments.
English teacher Diane Rushford, whose largest class is a junior English class with 28 students,
explained that a larger class can present more diverse perspectives and therefore longer lasting and more interesting discussions. Group work can also be more dynamic and vary throughout the classes. However, Mrs. Rushford spends much more time in school planning classwork when she has more students. “I spend more time with my students than my own children,” Mrs. Rushford said.
Principal Paul Gasparini has a different perspective on large class size. “I would simply say that large depends on the course,” Mr. Gasparini said. Each teacher is allowed to teach five different sections. If they are a department chair, they can teach four. Some courses require more aid from teachers, so that class would have less students.
“You may find that some AP courses, for example, an AP English course, 11th grade, might be large. They might have 26, 27, 28 students,” Mr. Gasparini said. According to Mr. Gasparini, an advanced placement course might have more students because those students do not require as much help in their class. A Regents or applied course will typically hold less students due to the fact that they require more assistance with their work.
Jamesville-DeWitt High School is a public school funded by tax payers in the district. “The reality is, we are a public-based, tax financed system,” said Eric Ormond, “that can’t be disregarded when determining how many classes will be carried.” Without asking tax payers for more money, it is impossible to hire more teachers. At the end of the day, increasing taxes is the only way to acheive smaller class sizes, but asking for more money is a hard solution.
Budget cuts are real. Money is tight. It’s a reality we must understand, but, the real question is, whether or not we are willing to accept this as our education.