Class Size – Part I – Class Sizes Continue to Grow in U.S. Schools

If there’s one thing educators are sure of, it’s that class sizes can really make or break a school year.

When they’re a manageable size, teachers can spend the necessary time building rapport and trust with each student, encouraging their best effort, and working giving each student the individual attention they need to excel.  When class sizes are too large, teachers are barely able to complete the basics like creating assignments, grading, and managing the classroom.  This means building rapport and personal relationships with students don’t happen like they should.

Class sizes are typically determined by budgets and the availability of teachers within a district.  The last thing that goes into the decision-making process is how having a larger class size will affect the students and their learning success.

Between the years of 1980 and 2008 class sizes dropped and teachers were able to manage working with students along with completing the various other requirements of the classroom.   Unfortunately, class sizes have ballooned again creating a classroom environment that is often hectic, leaves students feeling their questions are not being answered and significantly reduces the amount of time teachers can spend assisting students the way they need.   

During the period of time spanning from 1980 to 2008, the national average class size dropped as low as 15.8 students per teacher.  Today, the national average is closer to 20.9 students per teacher.

Naturally, though, averages never show the full picture. There are many states that have class sizes far above this figure.

The top ten states with overcrowded classrooms are as follows:

  1. Utah: 26 students per teacher
  2. California: 25 students per teacher
  3. Michigan: 25 students per teacher
  4. Nevada: 25 students per teacher
  5. Oregon: 24 students per teacher
  6. Minnesota: 24 students per teacher
  7. Arizona: 24 students per teacher
  8. Washington: 24 students per teacher
  9. Indiana: 23 students per teacher
  10. Idaho: 23 students per teacher

These are average class sizes, so they don’t take additional factors into account.

When looking solely at data on averages, one often forgets that:

  • Special education classes tend to be much smaller than mainstream classes
  • Certain electives like band, orchestra, and chorus have class sizes that are well above the average
  • Middle school and high school teachers educate anywhere between 100-200 students per day
  • Average class sizes can look very different within a state depending on the decisions made by local administrators

Class sizes have been steadily rising in numbers since 2008.  Given teacher shortages and other educational factors, it doesn’t appear as though class sizes will stabilize anytime soon.

The growing teacher shortage may reach crisis mode in the coming years as teachers are choosing to leave the profession and fewer people are choosing to go into teaching. With student populations growing and a reduction in the number of teachers, class sizes will have to keep growing.

This could be a great opportunity for school districts to employ highly-trained virtual teachers, utilize digital resources, and educate students through virtual classroom environments. Virtual classes would help keep class sizes manageable and allow teachers to build those important relationships with each student. 

Virtual classrooms have more tools at the teacher and students’ fingertips than a traditional classroom setting.  Using the right virtual classroom technology, they are easy to use, documents what the students are doing, gives the teacher immediate test/quiz results and automatically provides detailed reports for the school administrators.

Virtual classes can better prepare students for the future because they are using technology throughout the day to attend class.