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City Class Sizes Continue to Grow, DOE Report Shows

By Jill Colvin | December 14, 2012 7:07pm

NEW YORK CITY — Class sizes are up across the city again this year, according to new Department of Education numbers released late Friday.

The average class size rose by 1.6 percent, from 26.3 students per class in fiscal year 2012 to 26.7 students per class in fiscal year 2013 — an increase, on average, of about half a student per class, the preliminary data show.

The average elementary school class now has 24.8 students, the average middle school class 27.3 students and the average high school class 26.8 students.

DOE officials blamed the increase partially on the fact that the city is using more and more "integrated co-teaching" (ICT) classrooms in which two teachers co-teach a class that contains both special needs and general education students.

According to the DOE, the teacher-student ratio for general education and ICT classrooms actually decreased by 1.4 students per teacher this year.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has repeatedly argued that class size is far less important than the quality of the teachers at the front of the classroom.

But critics, including Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters, argued the city is shortchanging students by placing them in such large classes.

Kindergarten though second grade classes are now at their largest sizes since 1998, while third grade classes are the highest on record, she said.

"The research is absolutely crystal clear... Class size in the early years makes a huge difference in terms of student success in later grades and later on [in] life," Haimson said, citing research that shows students who learn in smaller classes are more likely to graduate from college and own their own homes later in life.

"We are absolutely depriving these kids of their chances of success in life," she said.

She also discounted the DOE's argument that putting two teachers in the same classroom helps.

"There's no evidence that it provides the same benefits as the smaller [class] size," she said.

United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said the numbers show that the city has its priorities wrong.

"Every parent and every teacher knows how critical it is that classes are small enough that each child can get individual attention. But Mayor Bloomberg disagrees, and since 2007 New York City class sizes keep getting bigger and bigger," Mulgrew said in a statement.

"It’s time for the DOE — with its legions of 'accountability' officers and hundreds of lawyers — to focus its attention and budget resources on the schools, not the bureaucracy."

Under the UFT's contract with the city, class size limits are 18 for pre-K, 25 for kindergarten, 32 for first through sixth grades, 30 to 33 for middle school and 34 for high school.

A final report on this year's class sizes will be issued by the DOE in February.