This site aims to inform and mobilize Beverly parents to take an active role in all issues related to the funding and operation of the city's schools. It was launched in the spring of 2008, when the city saw its first-ever override attempt fail, followed by the closure of a nearly-new elementary school. Subsequent years have seen further cuts that have led to larger class sizes across the district. While the opening of an impressive new high school and plans to replace the city's aging middle school give us reason to be optimistic, the school community must be ever vigilant in demanding appropriate school funding by city and state governments, and better community communications from the district and School Committee.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Override Fact of the Day: Class Sizes

Perhaps the greatest concern for most parents is that either the approved 5-school plan or the Superintendent's original plan would greatly increase class sizes. Most classes would be at or near the state maximum of 25 students in first & second grade, and 30 students in third through fifth.

The Salem News ran a story in April on class sizes in the area and pointed out that Beverly's average class sizes (22.6) are already well above other area towns such as Danvers (20.8), Peabody (20.5), and Salem (18.6). With the Superintendent's original plan, the average size in Beverly elementary schools would grow to 26.6. No data has been provided yet on the current plan, but it is thought that it would be in the same range.

Yes! for Beverly provides the following research on class sizes:

The benefits of smaller classes are now widely acknowledged. Few education issues have been studied more than the effect of class size on student achievement. Tennessee’s longitudinal class-size study — Student Teacher Achievement Ratio (STAR) project — was one of the most comprehensive studies ever undertaken to conclusively demonstrate that small classes have an advantage over larger classes – particularly in reading and math in early primary grades. The STAR project showed that those enrolled in small classes as youngsters were more likely to: graduate on time; complete more advanced math and English courses; complete high school; and graduate with honors.

Educational experts recommend that the student-teacher ratio be 15 to 1 (Beverly elementary schools district maximums have been raised to 25 to 1 for grades 1 + 2, and to 30 for grades 3, 4 + 5). Consider that:

In a four-point plan to ensure that all children are educated to their full potential, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching President Ernest L. Boyer called for reducing class size to "no more than 15 students per teacher" for the early elementary grades. The National Association of Elementary School Principals has revised its class size policy statement from a student-teacher ratio of 20 to 1 down to recommending a student-teacher ratio of 15 to 1.
  • According to the U.S. Department of Education, "A growing body of research demonstrates that students attending small classes in the early grades make more rapid educational progress than students in larger classes, and that these achievement gains persist well after students move on to larger classes in later grades."
  • According to Alan Krueger of Princeton University, who served as chief economist for the U.S. Department of Labor in the Clinton administration, lowering class sizes in Tennessee narrowed the achievement gap between blacks and whites by 38 percent.

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