Increased class sizes lead to struggles, adjustments

It’s no secret that the population of Carmel High School is growing. The class of 2013 had 163 students, while the class of 2020—comprised of the current freshmen—has 240 students, and the fact of the matter is that the school is still balancing how to accommodate this increase.

CHS class sizes have experienced steady increases as a result of the rising enrollment. This fall, the average class size of CHS is 24.7 students. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in the 2011-12 school year, U.S. public high schools had an average class size of 26.8 pupils, placing CHS relatively far below this statistic, even five years later.

Though it may seem CHS has managed to maintain decent class sizes compared to the national mean, the average class size of a school takes into account all courses. This includes statistical outliers like Concert Band, with 57 students at CHS, and Basic Algebra Readiness on the other end of the spectrum, with five students.

These kinds of numbers ultimately skew the average in favor of smaller class sizes, but at CHS it is not uncommon to have a class period with 30 students or more. In fact, 64 CHS class periods fit that criterion this year.

Required courses in particular, like English, social studies and some mathematics classes, have experienced steep enrollment inflation, and CHS teachers report feeling the effects.

Math department teacher Juan Gomez describes the changes in behavior and dynamic resulting from two sections of Integrated Math III at 29 students each.Class Size Graph

“There’s just something about having more bodies between you as a student sitting in the corner in the back and the teacher at the front of the class,” Gomez says. “Behavior does become an issue that way.”

Drama teacher Gracie Poletti shares the sentiments of Gomez in an entirely different discipline. She teaches two courses, Drama I and Drama II, in one class period, placing 39 students in her room at once. Poletti has done her best to work with the given circumstances in her first year teaching at CHS.

“It’s tricky in that I want people to be able to get up on their feet and participate,” she says, “but there’s so many people it means there’s a lot of sitting down time.”

In a class like Drama, Poletti explains, a crowded classroom can be detrimental to the students’ experience.

Like teachers, students have felt the effects of impacted class sizes as well.

“With so many students crammed in one room,” senior AP Statistics student Sara Phillips says, “it’s a lot harder to focus, and it’s a lot harder to ask questions and get help. Mrs. [Dawn] Hatch does a great job helping everyone, but with so many students, it can’t be easy.”

But some teachers report that more students does not always mean a less effective teaching environment.

Social studies teacher Jillayne Ange has taught prerequisite social studies courses, notorious for larger class sizes, throughout her career and explains that as long as class sizes remain under 32 students, it’s a manageable load.

“Now that we need six sections of College Prep World History, 28-31 [students] is going to be standard,” Ange says.

Fellow social studies teacher Bill Schrier hosts two sections of Advanced Placement Human Geography at 32 and 33 students each. According to Schrier, this is a 10-student increase from last year’s sections, though it is too soon to tell how this will affect the course.

Schrier notes, “We haven’t really gotten down to activities that are going to require a lot of moving parts, so no trouble as of yet.”

-Anna Gumberg