Class Sizes in Lower Elementary

At our last regular Board meeting, I discussed how we monitor class sizes, especially at the lower elementary level, and how different parameters impact class sizes. Our class sizes in lower elementary currently range from 16* to 27 students per class. We prefer to keep these classes at 25 students or fewer. Unfortunately, there are quite a few things that impact these sizes.

Many of you have heard me mention that “students don’t come in nice, neat little packages.” We’re not making widgets here. We can’t set a certain class size and just turn students away from the district when all of the seats are full. Significant differences in class sizes can appear when there are multiple schools at a given grade level, and those schools have few teachers teaching at that grade level.

Imagine a school with 47 students projected for next year’s kindergarten class. The principal staffs that grade with two teachers, resulting in projected class sizes of 23 and 24. However, the week before school starts, three more kindergarten students register for that school, bringing the class sizes to 25 each. The following week, two more students register, bringing the class sizes to 26 students in each. With the addition of just two students, the school now exceeds 25 students in each class in that grade.

Now take a school like F.AVE, for example, where you might have 15 teachers all teaching the same grade level, with that grade level not being taught anywhere else. If those teachers were serving 375 students (i.e., 25 students per class), the school could “absorb” another 15 students before every class in that grade exceeds 25 students.

The neighborhood schools we cherish are amazing! But they are also inefficient. Like many things in life, we have to take the good with the bad, and one of the undesirable outcomes of having a handful of small lower elementary schools is that there can be considerable variability in class sizes from grade to grade within a building and from building to building within a grade. As we monitor class sizes, when we see “hot spots” (like we saw at Clairemont and Glennwood this year) we take a look at the specific circumstances surrounding that potential need and make a judgement call as to whether or not we assign additional resources (like a teacher or a para) to help lower the ratio of students to adults in that area. In the case of Clairemont and Glennwood this year, those circumstances led us to add a teacher at each school.

In case you are interested, here are our lower elementary class sizes as of the writing of this post (prior to adding the two teachers mentioned previously). Hopefully, the above information helps lend context to why one would see considerable variability in class sizes for these grades.

Class Size 2017 - K

Class Size 2017 - 1

Class Size 2017 - 2

Class Size 2017 - 3

 

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Strategic Reorganization

Strategic Reorganization

As most readers of this blog likely know, earlier this school year we finished our Strategic Improvement Plan. That plan was the culmination of a great deal of study and input into how best to move our district forward. District leaders have been working hard on implementing the action steps from that plan.

Initially, I had planned to add the position of Associate Superintendent in order to help move this plan forward. Upon further reflection, however, I decided to go in a different direction. I studied our plan and began sketching out what an organization designed to achieve the plan’s objectives would look like. Over the holiday break, I worked and re-worked the plan time and time again until I came up with a draft that I felt was representative of my vision for what was needed to move us along. I shared that draft with district leaders on several occasions and received very helpful feedback and ideas. I used that input, and extensive reflection, to craft the draft plan that I presented to the Board on 2/21/17 and to the Teacher Advisory Council on 2/22/17. (That presentation is below. While it is definitely not a substitute for a live presentation, I hope the slides below will give the reader a feel for what I am trying to accomplish.)

For me, it was critical that we have an organizational structure that could adequately address our strategic priorities. We needed a structure that breaks down organizational silos and instead encourages cross-department collaboration. For the last year and a half, I have been considering the strengths and opportunities for improvement in our district leadership team. It became clear that we were not fully utilizing the specific strengths of each individual and sometimes we were putting folks in situations that exasperated their areas needing improvement. I was pleased to see that the org chart I was envisioning also was a great fit with the specific strengths of the individuals on our leadership team, albeit sometimes in different roles than what they currently served.

Our #1 strategic priority is to reduce disproportionality. Therefore, in the coming days, I will be posting an Equity Director position. This role will be focused entirely on this priority. The person selected will lead the district’s efforts to eliminate disproportionality in achievement, discipline, participation, and any other areas we identify over the course of our work. Other than that one additional FTE, all other positions in the structure are existing positions, positions that have been re-purposed from existing positions, or positions that are added as part of our normal increased staffing needs due to growth.

The new organizational structure will serve as the blueprint for our staffing moving forward. Some portions of the plan will be put into place immediately, and others may take a year or more to transition into. I will soon be able to share who will be serving in each leadership role and will be getting any vacancies posted as soon as possible.

I am excited to share this development with you and hope you will take advantage of any opportunities to see this information shared in person. Principals have a copy of this presentation and I am happy to work presentations into my schedule for interested groups or schools.

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New System for Staffing Schools

Over the last several months the administrative team has been working hard to develop a robust, sustainable model for staffing our schools. The slides below are from my presentation to the Board on 2/21/17.

While the slides will give a feel for the direction we are going, I encourage you to take advantage of any opportunities to participate in a live presentation of the material to gain a more complete understanding. I have presented this to other groups, such as the Teacher Advisory Council, and principals have begun presenting it as well. Please feel free to reach out to me, or one of our principals, if your group is interested in learning more.

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