Currently, there are three first grade classes at Sowams School. Two of those classes have 25 students each, while the third has 26. Parents of students in those classes have spoken publicly at two recent meetings, asking officials to ensure that a new second grade teacher be added at Sowams next year to lower the student-to-teacher ratio.
Jen Gill, who spoke at the budget hearing on Wednesday, May 8 and a school committee meeting on May 9, is also circulating an e-mail regarding the issue. The e-mail states that class sizes for first grades at Primrose Hill are 18/19 students per teacher and 20/21 at Nayatt.
“This puts our students at a clear disadvantage with the expectations that will be placed upon them for the same academics,” stated the e-mail. “The lack of attention to students will impact the teacher’s ability to address the common core standards. If these students are going to be expected to take the third grade assessment next year, we need to adequately prepare them during their second grade year.
“We are asking for your support in petitioning the school committee to commit to an additional teacher for next year’s second grade class due to the large class sizes we have encountered this year. Currently there is a placeholder for funds but no guarantee that they will be used for this purpose.”
The school department employs a bottom line budget, which does not allow for the specific alteration of line items. School officials reserve the right to make decisions regarding funding as they surface throughout the year.
At the May 9 meeting, Sowams School parent Jason Knight told school officials that class sizes of 25 and 26 students “dilutes” the effectiveness of even the best teachers. He pleaded that officials commit to the additional second grade teacher at Sowams for the coming school year.
“For effect, for the record, I ask you to prioritize” the additional teacher over everything else in the budget, Mr. Knight said.
Another parent said her daughter was in one of the large classes at Sowams and had been negatively impacted by the experience. She asked that school officials do everything possible to stay true to the Sowams teacher placeholder.
Jen Gill’s e-mail
Dear School Committee Members,
Barrington Public Schools Mission Statement: The Barrington Public Schools will empower all students to excel.
This mission statement exemplifies the reason we are writing to voice our concerns about the current and future class size of Sowams Elementary’s current 1st grade class. We are in agreement that it is critical, in both keeping with Barrington Public Schools mission statement, and more importantly for the success of our children, that a fourth teacher be added for the 2013/2014 Sowams 2nd grade class.
Many parents have individually taken the time to address the current issue of the large class sizes in our first grade class: two 25 student classes and one 26 student class, well above the historic 18-21 students per class. There are several reasons we collectively feel this is a critical issue to be addressed as our children move forward but most importantly, that it relates directly to the district’s own mission: Empowering all students to excel. If we fail to supply the necessary resources to empower our children to succeed, especially at such early ages of development, it is not reasonable to then in turn expect them to excel in an increasingly competitive scholastic environment.
We are requesting that the language in the budget be changed so as to guarantee that the current “placeholder” funds be used to hire a fourth 2nd grade teacher at Sowams. The following supports our reasoning for this request:
· An elementary class of 25 & 26 students, with more expected to enroll over the summer is not only unfair to our young children and the expectations placed on them but is also unacceptable in a district that prides itself in providing the highest level of academics.
· As it is understood, Primrose currently has 18/19 per class for the same grade and Nayatt has 20/21 per class for the same grade. This puts our students at a clear disadvantage with the expectations that will be placed upon them for the same academics.
· The lack of attention to students will impact the teacher’s ability to address the common core standards. If these students are going to be expected to take the 3rd grade assessment next year, we need to adequately prepare them during their second grade year.
· The Common Core will only succeed if our teachers are given every opportunity to meet the challenges associated with implementing an entirely new curriculum. Smaller classroom sizes, as the data suggests, will greatly assist in reaching the goals associated with the Common Core. It is unreasonable to expect our educators to maintain the same level of excellence while increasing their class sizes. To quote the Tennessee STAR report, “The benefits of small classes have potential for cost savings, social benefits, and long-term pupil gains. Fewer school dropouts and lower retention-in-grade…have immediate and long-term cost implications, such as increased numbers of college- bound students.”
· We are concerned not addressing the current class size of 25/26 students is setting a precedent where this size in the future will then be deemed acceptable when it is not. We ask that you recognize the importance of class size in the early grades and its direct correlation with student success.
· This same issue, which came up at Nayatt Elementary, with the same grade and class sizes, was successfully addressed in 2011 – we would expect the same attention and resolution for our students. http://barrington.patch.com/articles/nayatt-classroom-sizes-raise-eyebrows
We sincerely appreciate you taking the time to consider our request and look forward to working together to achieve a common goal, the successful education of our children.