19/20 High School Class Size Investigated

01/01/2020

by Tami Kee

How is TSD doing on class sizes at the High School level? 

Last year I looked at how TSD was doing with class sizes at the high schools.  I thought it would be interesting to see how they are doing this year.  I also completed a couple blogs earlier discussing  the class size in TSD elementary schools and middle schools. For those blogs you can click Elementary, Middle Schools, Last year High Schools.  

A little background….

Unlike class size studies for elementary schools, there isn’t really much out there discussing recommended class sizes for a high school class.  This blog mainly addresses the seats available in the classroom(likely around 25-35) and the stated threshold capacity.  Some classes are more intensive, and take more time outside of the classroom, than other classes.  For instance a PE class is less likely than an English class to add a significant amount of time to a teacher with added students.  With not much outside TSD available, the contract between TEA and TSD is used as the baseline for class size in this discussion.

Article 37.E.5 of the TEA contracts states as follows:

“Secondary Class Size and Targeted Average.
 The employee workload in secondary classrooms (except band, choir, orchestra, and PE) shall average no more than 27 students per period, with a class size of 30 for impact. These calculations shall exclude student assistants or peer tutors. If an individual class exceeds the impact level (30), overload compensation will apply. If the overall targeted average of 27 is exceeded, overload compensation will apply. Employees will only receive overload compensation for one of the two provisions, whichever provides the greater compensation.”

So what does that mean?   Classes averaging more than 27 students throughout the day, or a single class over 30 students were agreed by TEA and TSD as the threshold for impact.  From this one can conclude that 27 is the desired maximum in a class.  From a budget perspective, this means that any class over 30 students automatically qualifies for “overload compensation”, and any teacher who has an average of more than 27 students throughout the day qualifies for “overload compensation”.  

What classes at BHHS and THS would be considered “overloaded” based on the 27 student maximum? 

Both high schools have several classes that are over the threshold of 27 students, with many over the 30 student threshold too. (Band, Choir, Orchestra and PE were not included in this investigation).  It appears that, for the most part, there are fewer overloaded classes compared to last year, and the average class sizes for the most part are lower with some exceptions.  This could be due to the drop in overall enrollment in the District.  

English, Math, Science, and Social Studies, are, on average, more overloaded than non-core classes.  The following chart was compiled from the data showing the sizes of English classes at both high schools:

The Freshmen English classes are close to where they should be for student-teacher ratios.  The average Freshman English class sizes at BHHS and THS sit at 26.5 and 26.3 respectively.  This is right at the threshold for capacity so it stands to reason that there would be a few classes that go over the threshold based on scheduling the students. So having 17%-29% of the classes over the 27students would be expected.  The Freshman Honors classes have fewer students at both BHHS and THS with average classes sizes of 23.7 and 21.5, respectively.  

The Sophomore English classes are close to where they should be for student-teacher ratios.  The average Sophomore English class sizes at BHHS  sits at 26.6 with 40% over the 27 student threshold.   THS sits at and average of 25.4 with 14% over the 27 student threshold.  These classes are right at the threshold for capacity so it stands to reason that there would be a few classes that go over the threshold based on scheduling the students.   The Sophomore Honors English classes are also sitting right at capacity at both BHHS and THS with average classes sizes of 26.6 and 26, respectively.   BHHS has 33% of their Sophomore Honors English classes at or over the 30 student threshold, this is not desirable since hitting the 30 student threshold triggers the impact pay for the teacher.  

The Junior and Senior English Classes are also close to where they should be for student-teacher ratios.

The average Junior English class sizes at BHHS and THS sit at 24.3 and 26, respectively.  Both BHHS and THS have a few classes over the 27 student threshold and BHHS has 25% over the 30 student threshold.  The average Senior English class sizes at BHHS and THS sit at 24.9 and 24, respectively.  The AP English classes at both high schools have averages between 17 and 22 students, and none of these classes are over the the threshold.  THS has English 101 at the High school with an average of 24 students. 

The same approach with the math classes is as follows:

With Math classes, there are still some classes that are well over the capacity.  BHHS has a few classes with averages over the 27 student threshold and in each of those, with 17%-100% at or over the 30 student threshold in those classes.  BHHS also has a couple classes with enrollment of 12.8 and 14, which is well below the student threshold and not desirable from a budget perspective.  THS has a couple classes over the 27 student threshold and only Accelerated Integrated Math III with 67% at or over the 30 student threshold.  As discussed earlier, having classes at or over the 30 student threshold is not desirable as it triggers the impact pay for the teacher and affects the budget. 

The same approach for Social Studies classes at both high schools is as follows:

Most of the Social Studies classes are below the 27 student threshold with a few exceptions.  For example, Civics at BHHS has an average class size of 28.3 with every class at or over the 27 student threshold.  The same course at THS has an average class size of 26.7 with 57% of the classes over the 27 student threshold.    Psychology is another course where BHHS has an average class size over the 27 student threshold with an average of 28.3 with 67% over 27 students and 33% at or over 30 students.  This same course at THS has an average of 26.5 with 50% over 27 students.  

On the other end of the spectrum are the AP US History classes at THS with an average of 18.3 students, well below the 27 student threshold, which is not desirable from a budget perspective.

The same approach for Science classes at both high schools is follows:

For the most part, science classes are below the threshold, with many well below the threshold of 27 students.  The only courses above the threshold average are Physical Science classes at THS where 50% of classes are over 27 with an average of 27.1 students and 13% at or over 30 students.   However, there are several science courses at both high schools, with averages as low at 11.5 students per class.  AP Biology, Phyisics, Chemistry, Earth Science, and Enviro and You at BHHS and Honors Chemisty at THS are the smallest class sizes ranging from 11.5 to 16 students.  This is not desirable from a budget perspective.  

Last year we highlighted the over crowding in the Health classes at both high schools.  This year appears to be the same.

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BHHS has 44% of Health classes over 27 students with an average of 27 students per class.  In contrast, THS has 70% of its Health classes over 27 students, and 50% at or over 30 students, with an average of 28.6 students per class.  Both schools have more students, likely Freshman, than they have spots in Health classes. 

The primary variables that affect overcrowding are the number of teachers and the number of students, both of which TSD controls to a significant degree.

The number of incoming residents students is fairly predictable, and TSD can control the number of transfer students approved.  It would seem logical for the decision on transfer students to be made in the summer(after most “move ins” have occurred), when enrollment is more predictable and TSD knows how many resident students will be in the classes.  Our understanding is that this has not been the past practice. 

However, TSD has a Transfer Review Committee formed that is working on some suggested changes to the current transfer processes.  Ideally, the master schedule would be set with the resident students placed, and at a later date, the non resident students placed in classes where available space exists.  

Letting the transfer students in before the spaces available have been determined does not make sense unless TSD decides to add more classes/teachers, which has budgetary impact.  

Conclusion.

The TEA contract allows for classes to be overloaded as long as the teachers are compensated, which may not be a bad option at the HS level.  However, similar to elementary classes, when class sizes increase in a high school class, this can create class management difficulties and increase the work load of the teacher.  Limited desk space may also pose a challenge if the class sizes are large enough.  Overall, this year there are fewer classes with overcrowding which is likely due to the lower total enrollment, and/or better distribution of teachers and students.

The current budget situation may affect the class sizes in the future. The Board opted to keep using savings instead of making severe cuts this year, which meant TSD ran at approximately a $2 million deficit this school year.  The TSD Board will need to cut at least $2MM from the budget next year to keep from going below the required minimum fund balance(which is required by law to keep).  This may mean class size increases, either by having fewer teachers and/or fewer class options.  

The raw data from our records report can be found on our documents page, here.

As always Scott and I welcome comments and questions.  Please email us at Scottkee@citizensfortumwaterschools.com