High School Class Size Investigated 2018/19.

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

A previous blog discussed the class size in TSD elementary schools. For that information click here.  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”.  

A recent public records request revealed that most of the high school classes set 27 as the maximum number of students in a classroom, even though that number is frequently exceeded. 

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).

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 size of English classes at both high schools:

THS clearly has many more Freshman than it has room for in the English classes, while BHHS is well under the threshold.  The average Freshman English class size at BHHS sits at 25.6, and at THS it is 28.1.  The Freshman Honors English classes have a more significant difference between the schools.  BHHS does not have any Freshman Honors English classes over 27, with an average class size of 23.  In contrast,  every Freshman Honors English class at THS is over 27, and 50% have more than 30 students, for an average of 30.3 students per class.   

BHHS clearly has more Sophomores than it has room for in English classes, while THS is just under the threshold.  70% of the Sophomore English classes at BHHS are over 27, with an average of 27.9 students.  The Sophomore Honors English classes average 23.8 students.  BHHS clearly has more Sophomores than it has room for in English classes. Although THS is not over the 27 threshold for Sophomore and Junior English classes, THS is approaching the threshold in both Sophomore Honors English(26.3) and Junior English(26.5).  

Notably, 50% of the Senior English classes at THS have more than 27 students and 25% have more than 30 with an average of 28.5 students.  

The same approach with the math classes is as follows:

With Math classes, both schools seem to be similar until you look at the more advanced math classes.  For instance, at both BHHS and THS the Accelerated Math III is significantly overloaded, with both schools having an average class size over 30.  However, Pre-Calculus and Calculus classes at THS (31.5) are significantly more overloaded than similar classes at BHHS(15.8).   Unlike English classes, the students not generally segregated by grade.  It is clear that the early Integrated Math classes have much lower class sizes,  while the more advanced classes are more likely to be overloaded, and in some cases do not have enough desks in the classroom for the students.  For instance, some students in the THS Calculus class to travel to BHHS since THS is so overloaded.  

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

With Social Studies classes, the data seems to follow the English data for both BHHS and THS.  Meaning, the courses for each grade are overloaded if the English classes for that grade are overloaded.  

For example, at BHHS 40% of the World History classes(typically taken by Sophomores), are over the 27 students threshold.  As stated earlier, the Sophomore English classes at BHHS are overloaded. This shows there are more Sophomore students at BHHS than class spots available in both English and Social Studies.

In comparison, THS has 56% of Social Studies Classes typically taken by Seniors over the 27 threshold.  Therefore it can be concluded, like English classes, there are more Seniors at THS than class spots available in Social Study classes.

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 Accelerated Physical Science at THS had 80% of classes over 27 and an average of 27.1 students.  21% of Physical Science classes at BHHS are over the 27 student threshold, with an average of 24.4 students.  Further, 11% of the Biology classes at BHHS are over 27, with an average of 23.1 students.  Physical Science is typically a Freshman course, therefore, like Freshman English classes, there are more Freshman at THS than spots available in the Accelerated Physical Science classes.

From the data above it is clear there are more Freshman and Seniors at THS than spots available in most of the core classes.  Similarly, there are more Sophomores than spots available at BHHS in the core classed.  

In looking at other classes typically taken by Freshman and Seniors there is a clear overcrowding of these particular classes.

This conclusion is highlighted when looking at the Health classes at THS(which are typically taken by Freshman):

BHHS has 33% of Health classes over 27 students and 13% over 30 students with an average of 27.1 students per class.  In contrast, THS has 90% of its Health classes over 27 students, and 50% over 30 students, with an average of 31.2 students per class.  Both schools have more students, likely Freshman, than they have spots in Health. 

Another class typically taken by Freshman at THS is the Tech Theater.  THS has 4 Tech Theater Classes, all of which are  over 27 students, with an average of 31.6 students per class.  

BHHS also has 50% of Spanish I classes over the 27 students with an average of 26 students per class.  BHHS has 67% of Spanish II classes over the 27 student threshold with an average of 27.5 students per class. 

The variables that effect overcrowding are the number of teachers and the number of students, both of which TSD controls. 

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 is not the current practice.  Letting the transfer students in before the spaces available have been determined, does not make sense, unless TSD decides to add more classes/teachers. The other option is to allow less Inter-district students to attend THS and BHHS.  

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.  It would appear that either a misappropriation of classes/teachers has occurred or a miscalculation on the number of students attending the high schools. 

The miscalculation is evident with the Freshman and Senior classes at TSD and Sophomore class at BHHS.

For example THS has several typically Freshman classes that are overloaded, as well as several typically Senior classes overloaded.  BHHS seems to have areas of overcrowding generally in the Sophomore classes.  Most of the classes at each schools are not overcrowded, but the core classes are typically the classes that are over crowded.  At BHHS, 84% of the over crowed classes are core classes.  At THS, 70% of the over crowed classes are core classes.  Most of the remaining classes over the threshold at THS are classes typically taken by Freshman students.  TSD needs to either add more teachers/classes or lower the number of students if TSD wants to keep classes below the agreed upon threshold. 

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

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