Classes larger than B.C. average

Provincially ordered budget cuts beginning to show their effects

Class sizes in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows used to be lower than the provincial average, but after three years of budget cuts, classrooms here are more crowded than the mean.

The provincial class size report shows that the average in Maple Ridge is higher at every grade level for the 2014-2015 school year.

At the Kindergarten level, there are 20.1 students in Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows compared with a provincial average of 19.5.

At Grades 1-3, the difference is 22 locally compared with 21.5 provincially.

For Grades 4-7, it is 26.5 locally compared with 25.6 provincially.

And at the high school level, the district average is 23.7 compared with 23.2 for all of B.C.

Local educators say it’s a bad trend.

“Our board has expressed concern with having to increase class size over each of the past two years, and we’re reluctant to do so again,” said school board chairman Mike Murray.

The high school number is misleading, because it does not represent the true average in the district. Murray said some very low class sizes skew the numbers downward.

In reporting the numbers, school district superintendent Sylvia Russell noted that “… the class size averages at Grades 8-12 appear lower than what is experienced by students at most schools because of the inclusion in the report of classes that support students with special needs, trades partnership programs and specialty classes – all of which have a smaller class size.”

Her report notes that there were 89 classes in the district with more than 30 students. That is up from 27 classes over 30 just two years ago.

Murray said the budget for the 2015-2016 school year will not increase class size. The damage was done by the two previous budgets, which cut $8 million and 70 positions.

Analyzing the class size report, Murray said the fullest classrooms in B.C. are to be found in metropolitan school districts that have dealt with fiscal problems.

He recently saw a review of the major research on class size conducted by researchers at the University of Colorado in February 2014.

“This policy brief summarizes the academic literature on the impact of class size and finds that class size is an important determinant of a variety of student outcomes, ranging from test scores to broader life outcomes,” said the report. “Smaller classes are particularly effective at raising achievement levels of low-income and minority children.”

Murray said it impressed upon him that educators shouldn’t let standards slip on this important issue.

“We’re concerned about class size, and there’s research that says it matters.”

 

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