The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, November 24, 2006


Eighth grade may see 27 per class

Recommendations for class sizes and middle school schedule for the 2007 — 2008 school year were presented at the November 15 Carlisle School Committee meeting. Due to a drop in recommended sections in the eighth grade, the average class size would grow to 27, a high number for Carlisle School. Principal Paul Graseck, who has been meeting with the Middle School Task Force, said the task force was charged to "develop a structure for next year," he explained. Additionally the task force is "trying to arrange the middle school schedule so every student would be allowed to take all classes." Currently a variety of classes are offered simultaneously during "tutorials," weekly periods in which students can select activities, such as music or art club or receive extra assistance.

Small classes for lower grades

In Superintendent Marie Doyle's memo to the School Committee regarding class-size recommendations she notes that "early interventions lead to academic success in school." She recommends no more than 18 students per class in grades K — 2, 18 — 21 students in grades 3 — 5, and 21 — 25 students in grades 6 — 8. "A review of the literature on the subject gives a plethora of information, mostly supporting the view that lower class size helps all children."

Eighth grade largest class

Traditionally the eighth-grade class is split into four sections, with four teachers teaching one core subject (Math, English Language Arts, Social Studies, and Science). Next year's eighth grade will be the largest class in the school, and is currently split into five seventh- grade sections, with an average class size of 21. Four teachers handle two subjects each and one teacher teaches all four core subjects.

When the same class was in sixth grade it was split into six sections, which dropped the average class size down to 18. While noting that small class sizes are the best for students, Doyle notes that "our smaller population and budget constraints sometimes present challenges, thus preventing us from meeting these [lower class size] guidelines, so we support using these numbers as recommendations rather than system policy."

The memo recommends an average eighth-grade class size of 27. This is high compared to current class sizes (see table) as well as class sizes in the recent past. While the size of the largest classes approached 30 during the 1990-91 school year after a failed budget override necessitated severe budget cuts, the following year the maximum class size was reduced to 25.

Task force

will search for alternatives

When asked why the class is being moved into four sections, Graseck explained that the eighth-grade team would prefer to teach the subjects in which they "are experts," rather than teach multiple subjects. Parents may be concerned, noted School Committee member, Michael Fitzgerald, to see the large class size. School Committee Chair Nicole Burkel replied that she would like to have the school administration present what is best for the students, not what the teachers want or the parents prefer. During the FY08 budget presentation, Business Manager Heidi Zimmerman pointed out a new initiative for two general education classroom aides for the middle school, at a cost of $50,000. It was suggested that these two aides could be used to offset the large student-to-teacher ratio. Graseck said he would meet with the task force and discuss possible scenarios to reduce next year's eighth grade class size.

2006 The Carlisle Mosquito