Class sizes range anywhere from around or fewer than 10 students to the mid-30s, and the average class size statistic is easily skewed with classes such as AP Calculus BC, which boasts a size of 11 students, coming into the picture.
Even in specific courses and departments, class sizes tend to fluctuate greatly.
This lack of balance may be caused by the number of classes offered only one or two periods a day.
For example, AP Calculus BC, Shakespeare and Poetry, Chamber Choir, Introduction to Earth Science, Honors Chinese IV and French II are offered only during second period, and other courses such as AP Biology and AP Environmental Science, are only offered during first and second period, creating problems with class sizes throughout the day.
Overall, class sizes have taken part in a rising trend over the past few years, and it is possible that larger class sizes make it harder to provide individualized attention to students.
“The enrollment’s going up,” social studies teacher Marc Stafford says. “The school is encouraging kids to take AP. We as a department are embracing that. We want kids to challenge themselves and take AP, but it’s getting harder and harder to do because the class sizes are getting bigger, and the consequence is that the non-AP classes are changing too.”
But U.S. History teacher Aubrey Powers notes that a larger class size doesn’t necessarily affect how she teaches a class.
“I don’t know that I would be doing things differently in my college-prep U.S. History classes because of the size,” Powers adds. “It’s just a lot of bodies.”
Large class sizes have not only been affecting the social studies department, however. Chemistry and AP Environmental Science teacher Jason Maas-Baldwin has Honors Chemistry classes with sizes of 29, 31 and 32 students.
“I often struggle with trying to serve every one of my students, and at the same time, it’s like, there’s too many to serve,” Maas-Baldwin says.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the National Science Teachers Association recommend a minimum of 60 square-feet per student for students in a Chemistry lab, and Maas-Baldwin’s classes now serve about 15 per student.
“To say that there’s not adequate room would be a correct statement,” Maas-Baldwin adds. “Hence, why we are building much larger 2,000 square-foot classrooms.”
Failure to meet these standards has occurred in the past, but Maas-Baldwin is finding a way to make things work with the number of students he has.
“I realize that the numbers probably aren’t going to change,” Maas-Baldwin says. “It’s the reality of our financial times, and so I’m just trying to learn to deal with it.”
Nevertheless, nearly everyone can acknowledge the fact that Carmel High is one of the most fortunate schools in the county in terms of class sizes.
“Carmel High ‘huge’ is not rest of the country ‘huge,’” Stafford remarks. “Honestly, if I didn’t teach here…I would seriously consider renting my house out for four years and moving to rent a house out in Carmel so that my kids could go somewhere other than Marina High.”
Marina High School’s average class size is 26 students, and given the difference between that statistic and the numbers at Carmel High, one can only imagine the reality of the situations at other schools.