Crowded Classes Hurt Your Child

Crowded classes pose a looming threat to the education system in the United States. As districts look to save money, they're increasingly turning to larger class sizes as the answer. Yet the impact this has on children should be a cause for concern.

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A Growing Problem

The Miami Herald recently reported on the rising crisis of overcrowded classrooms in Florida schools. Last year, almost every high school class in Florida was capped at 25 students due to the final stage of the Class Size Amendment implementation. Since then, Florida legislators cut two-thirds of classes that were covered by the amendment; this was essentially a cost-saving move, but the effect has been a surge in class sizes.

Struggling school districts throughout the country are facing similar issues. One of the most straightforward ways to get more of a return on the investment of paying a teacher is to pack that teacher's classes with more students. In addition to saving on payroll, increasing class sizes saves money on resources, including the number of necessary classrooms. As the economy continues to falter, in conjunction with the vocal movement from the political right to slash government spending, regardless of the target, the problem of swollen class sizes is growing.

How It Can Affect Your Child

As returning students in Florida are currently discovering, there are numerous drawbacks to increased class sizes. For example, individualized attention suffers proportionally with the growth in class size. This means that teachers are less able to respond to every student's question, provide substantive feedback on assignments and be available for one-on-one time outside of the classroom with each student. Additionally, teachers are forced to rely more on lectures and less on interactive instruction.

On a practical level, many classrooms are now expected to handle a student load for which they weren't intended. If this is happening in your school district, it mean may that your child is forced to share a desk or sit on the edge of the room, scrambling for increasingly scarce space. This can have a deleterious effect on your child's ability to learn, since having adequate room to sit, open one's books and see the teacher clearly is essential for comprehension. Furthermore, discipline is more of a challenge with a larger class, which can lead to a rise in distractions and disruptions.

Coping with a Larger Class

There are various ways to cope with a school facing growing class sizes. As a parent, you can consider what other options may be available that will provide your child with more individualized attention and a better learning environment. At some schools, online courses are available and these can provide a personalized learning path in some circumstances. It may also be possible to rearrange your child's schedule in order to place him or her in less crowded rooms, though this may mean deciding between taking a desired course or accepting an overcrowded room.

These solutions, however, may ultimately prove to be more stopgap measures than long-term answers. If this problem is affecting your child, consider the root causes and see if they can be addressed. It may be worth contacting your local legislators or attending a school board meeting. Remember that teachers suffer under the strain of larger classrooms, making them a key ally in the fight to reverse the trend.

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