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Crookston Times - Crookston, MN
  • Parent says second-grade class sizes at Highland are too large

  • Bates says it's tough to find a happy medium on section sizes.
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  •     Bill Anderson, the parent of a second grader at Highland Elementary, addressed the  school board Monday, voicing concerns that this year's second-grade classrooms may be too large for comfort.
        "I am concerned for the quality of education for kids in the second grade due to the class size," he said. "I've visited with a number of other second-grade parents who share similar concerns. One in particular feels her son's progress is lagging and that his is not getting the time and attention needed."
        Anderson said he first became uneasy about the class size when meeting with his son's teacher this fall. Although the boy's report card was good, the teacher said some "troubling things," including that his son was one of a handful of students who did not receive their own science book, as there were not enough to go around this year. The teacher also told him she often skips subjects such as science to concentrate more on the students who not keeping up with their reading.
        "I understand that reading is very important and that it is essential to succeed in other subjects," he said. "But I also don't want to see kids to fall behind in other areas.
        "I'm a realist. I know money and resources tight, but it also seems obvious to me that the class sizes in second grade are really too large," said Anderson. "I am not blaming the teachers; I nothing but praise for the role they play in the education of my kids. But I am wondering if I, as a parent, can help, and if someone can meet with me about adding another section to second grade.
        Superintendent Chris Bates responded to Anderson's concerns, noting that he was not yet with the district when the decisions on class sizes for this year were made. With 103 students, the average second-grade class size in the district is just under 26 students. The average class sizes for grades kindergarten through six among area school are 23.4 students.
        "Interestingly, we're now two kids above the average, but if we were to add a section, we would be two kids below," he said. "We certainly want to be in that ballpark, and we are kind of in the middle of all the districts, within one or two students in terms of class sizes."
        Ultimately, Bates said, the district has to look at whether adding another teacher/section would be worth the significant added cost.
        "There's an assumption that smaller class sizes are better, but that's not necessarily true," he said. "To my knowledge no research whatsoever shows that classes of 27, 28 students affect education at all, that adding a teacher would automatically increase the quality of education. I think having four high-quality teachers, which we certainly do in this case, is better than five mediocre ones."
    Page 2 of 2 -     In the spring, his office will be posing various scenarios and crunching numbers so that more comprehensive data will be available to make decisions for next year, Bates added. In the meantime, he encouraged Anderson to meet with him to discuss the matters concerning him.
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