Contact: Leonie Haimson, 917-435-9329; firstname.lastname@example.org
NYC Class sizes increase again this year
Parents, advocates and attorneys urge NYSED Commissioner rule on their complaint and make DOE take action nowLast week, the NYC Department of Education released class size data for the current school year, showing that class sizes have increased by .1 student on average, to 26.4 students per class citywide.
This year’s increase occurred in the face of a formal petition filed with the Commissioner of Education in July by Class Size Matters, the Alliance for Quality Education, NYC Public Advocate Letitia James, and nine NYC public school parents, demanding that the state enforce the 2007 Contracts for Excellence (C4E) law, which required NYC to reduce class size in all grades. The petitioners argued that the State should require DOE to begin an accelerated process towards lowering class size toward the goals in the city’s original C4E plan, approved by the state in the fall of 2007.
Education Law Center (ELC), a non-profit law firm that enforces the rights of public school children, is serving as legal counsel to the petitioners.
The petition requested the Commissioner rule within 90 days of receipt of all legal filings, a deadline that passed Monday without a response.
According to calculations made by Class Size Matters, while average class sizes in grades K-3 decreased slightly this fall to 24 students per class, they are still 15% larger than in 2007. At this rate it would take more than 15 years to reach the goals of 20 or less students in the city’s original C4E plan. Average class sizes did not decrease in grades 4-8, and at 26.6 remain far above the C4E goals of 23 students or less for these grades. In high school, average class sizes also did not budge and remain at 26.5, significantly higher than the C4E goals of 25.
These averages tell only part of the story, however, because of the sharp increase since 2007 in the total number of students in very large classes, revealing widening inequities across the city. The number of Kindergarten students in classes of 25 or more has nearly doubled since 2007, as have the number of students in 4th-8th grade in classes of 30 or more.
The number of students in grades 1-3rd in classes 30 or more has increased by nearly 3800 percent – from fewer than 1185 students in 2007 to 38, 279 students this fall – despite the fact that keeping class sizes as small as possible in these grades has been shown to be a critical tool in boosting student success. More than 290,000 students — nearly one third of the total- attend classes of 30 or more as of October 31 of this year.
Said Leonie Haimson, the Executive Director of Class Size Matters, “The failure of the city to lower class size and increases in very large classes across the city has deprived students of an equitable chance to learn. It is unacceptable that the Mayor and the Chancellor continue to relegate thousands of NYC children to failure, given that lowering class size has been proven to be one of the best ways to narrow the achievement and opportunity gap between racial and economic groups.”
The class size data just released also shows that 73% of the Renewal schools continue to have maximum class sizes of 30 students or higher, with classes as large as 87 students, despite the DOE promises to focus their class size reduction efforts in these struggling schools. Not one Renewal school has capped class sizes at the recommended C4E levels. Given class sizes this large, it is no surprise that this initiative so far has shown disappointing results.
“The class sizes are simply too large and the fact that they keep growing is unacceptable. Overcrowded classrooms are one of the key factors that deprive students of their state constitutional right to a ‘sound basic education’,” said Billy Easton, Executive Director, Alliance for Quality Education.
Naila Rosario, one of the plaintiffs in the case, said this: “My daughter is in the fifth grade at PS 172 in Brooklyn. The school is composed of 79% Black and Hispanic children, 31% of them with special needs and 28% English Language learners. My daughter is in a class of 34; and though her teacher and principal do their best, too many kids lack the attention they need to excel. These class sizes are deplorable – especially considering NYC is the wealthiest city in the world in the wealthiest country in the world. Where are our priorities as a city that the Mayor and the Chancellor do nothing to address this problem?”
JoAnn Schneider is another plaintiff, with a son who is in the fifth grade at PS/IS 113 in Queens: “My son has special needs and is in a class of 31, like last year. He has been in a class of 30 or more since 1st grade. He continues to struggle because of the large class size, as do other students, and I fear he is being cheated out of his full potential because the school system has deprived him of his best chance to learn. The Commissioner must require the Department of Education to comply with the law, and lower class size now.”
Laura Cavalleri, parent plaintiff from Staten Island said: “My son’s English class at Ralph McKee High school is so crowded there aren’t enough desks and two students have to stand. Is this any way to run a school system?”
Said Kim Watkins, the President of the Community Education Council in District 3 in Manhattan: “There is a fifth- grade class size of 37 students in PS 208 Alain L. Locke Magnet School in our district. This class size is far above the C4E goal of 23 students per class and even above the union contractual limit of 32 for this grade. Yet PS 208 is composed of 92% Black students and Hispanic students, 35% of them with special needs. Meanwhile, the district tells us that the school budget doesn’t allow for the hiring of another teacher in this grade. This is simply unacceptable. The DOE needs to provide the funding to reduce class size in this school and in all NYC public schools if it is going to fulfill its goals of educational equity and excellence.”
Charts showing class size data this fall and trends since 2007 are available here and below: https://www.classsizematters.org/in-2017-class-sizes-increase-once-again-according-to-doe-data
More information on the Legal Petition is available here: http://www.edlawcenter.org/news/archives/new-york/nyc-parents-file-complaint-to-enforce-law-to-reduce-class-size.html