Chaos in the classroom

Increased class sizes harm learning


Abby Keller

In anticipation of class starting, 40 students in Erik Ahlquist’s seventh hour Calculus class get materials out. This is one of many classes filled to capacity as class sizes increased due to budget cuts.

Maren Wilsey

As students walk into their classes this year, many have noticed more desks and chairs fitted into the room to accommodate the ever-increasing class sizes. This year more than ever, Park is feeling the effects of larger classes. 

According to principal LaNisha Paddock, the main reasons for the sizing issues are budget cuts and the staffing shortages that result from them.

“It’s challenging because you’ve got to figure out who’s going to teach (each class),” Paddock said. “Naturally, when you’re on budget reductions, you’re going to see class increase, that’s how it works. But as we continue to look at that, we continue to try to balance the classes.” 

Math teacher Erik Ahlquist said more people in a class makes it difficult to control the focus of the group and cover all the required material. 

“Managing a class of bigger than 36 is super challenging — just managing the people and the interactions between people. It’s really hard, even when students mean their best,” Ahlquist said. “It’s hard to keep them doing what they need to do because there’s just too many people.”  

Junior Alison Garland explained that the increased number of students per-class makes it difficult  to get one-on-one work done with the teacher, while still getting to learn new material. 

“In my (calculus) class, there’s one teacher and 42 students, so if everybody has a question, then we don’t have time for the lesson. And I definitely have a lot of questions,” Garland said. “There’s not always time to get through everything and get help with everything that we need to get through.”

According to Ahlquist, the increased sizes put a strain on teachers’ ability to individually help their students.

“In class, the hardest thing is (making sure I) have the time to give every student individual attention. When you have 35 kids in class and you only have 50 minute classes, if you gave every kid one minute, you literally only have 15 minutes left — and rarely do you do a problem that takes just one minute,” Ahlquist said. “When the class is more like 39 or 40 (students), it’s even worse.”

Garland said the effects can vary based on the subject of the class, but unfortunately it’s been mainly concentrated in the areas where she needs the most help.

“For some classes, like English class, I’m fine on my own. I can grasp texts pretty easily and I can come up with (responses), but with classes like math and science, there’s one right answer,” Garland said. “It’s had mostly a negative effect — if you don’t have as much access to the teacher and it makes it harder to grasp what you’re trying to learn.”

Alquist said the majority of the effects end up harming students, ultimately hindering their education.

“Being stretched that thin has consequences,” Ahlquist said. “Unfortunately, usually the consequences fall on the student learning.”