GARDINER

September 12, 2011

Student-teacher ratios growing

By Susan McMillan smcmillan@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

GARDINER -- Many parents are attentive to the size of classes at their children's schools, knowing that common sense and some academic research indicates that smaller is better.

Local student-teacher ratios, 2010/11

SCHOOL 2010-11 2011-12

AUGUSTA

FARRINGTON 11.3 13.8

GILBERT 10.8 16.6

HUSSEY 13.7 12.9

LINCOLN 13 11.6

CONY 13.5 15.2

RSU 2

DRESDEN ELEM. 12.7 12

HALL-DALE ELEM. 14.7 15

COTTRELL 12.9 13

BUKER 14.1 14

HALL-DALE MIDDLE 14.7 15

MONMOUTH MIDDLE 14.4 14

RICHMOND MIDDLE 12.8 14

HALL-DALE HS 13.3 14

MONOUTH ACADEMY 11.9 12

RICHMOND HS 12.3 13

RSU 11

PITTSTON 15.2 15.8

HELEN THOMPSON 19.8 18.5

L.E. RICHARDS 18.4 19.1

RIVER VIEW 18.9 18.5

GARDINER MIDDLE 20 19.2

GARDINER AREA HS 12.4 12.3

RSU 12

CHELSEA 17.1 17.6

PALERMO 18.1 17.4

SOMERVILLE 11 7.3

WHITEFIELD 18.7 19.4

WINDSOR 16.3 16.8

WISCASSET HS 18.1 17.2

RSU 38

MANCHESTER 15.8 18

MOUNT VERNON 16 17

READFIELD 16.1 16

WAYNE 19.3 14

MARANACOOK MIDDLE 17.1 18

MARANACOOK HS 19.3 21

AOS 97

FAYETTE PRIMARY 19.7 19.4

WINTHROP GRADE 16.5 18.5

WINTHROP MIDDLE 15.8 16.5

WINTHROP HS 12.5 12.8

Sabrina Vasoll, who has two children at Laura E. Richards School, said her own experience backs that up.

"I work in an elementary school, so I know what it's like to have to manage lots of children," she said.

Vasoll is a guidance counselor in Bath, which is part of Regional School Unit 1. She said that district has had to cut staff and increase class sizes.

"It's hard, but when there's no money, there's no money," she said. "Kids get lost when classes are larger."

Vasoll said she is happy that her children have not been in classes any larger than 16 students at Richards.

Richards is part of Gardiner-based RSU 11, which has had to trim staff, including the elimination of two teaching positions at Gardiner Regional Middle School. Most other local districts have made similar cuts in recent years.

At 23 of 38 schools around the region, student-teacher ratios are projected to be higher this year than they were last year. The largest changes are at the smallest schools, such as Somerville Elementary and Wayne Elementary.

Student-teacher ratios are not the same as average class sizes, and the two measures can even move in different directions.

Winthrop Middle School has the same number of teachers as last year, and rising enrollment bumped student-teacher ratios up slightly. But class sizes rose much more, Principal Karen Criss said, to 24, up from 18.

"In a middle school setting, kids are not grouped by ability," Criss said. "When you do that and you increase by five or six kids in a classroom, it's just that many more kids to reach at all different levels."

Class sizes can vary widely within a school, particularly in high school, where upper-level classes tend to have fewer students than courses such as physical education or freshman English.

Student-teacher ratios provide an overall look at how a school's staffing is changing relative to its enrollment.

When calculating aid to schools, the state uses ratios to determine how many teachers a school should have based on its enrollment. The standards used are 17 to 1 for grades kindergarten through five, 16 to 1 for middle school and 15 to 1 for high school.

Higher student-teacher ratios and larger classes may be on the way in coming years. The largest part of a school's budget goes toward salaries and benefits, which makes cutting jobs an effective way to trim expenses.

One stopgap some school districts used is the federal Education Jobs Fund, which provided $39 million to Maine schools to retain and hire employees. The one-time distribution has to be used in the upcoming year.

"We didn't have a significant cut in staffing this year because we had the jobs bill," RSU 12 Superintendent Greg Potter said. "We're fortunate, in that sense, that we're able to keep class sizes relatively small."

RSU 12 received $435,000. To avoid eliminating jobs during next year's budget process, the district will have to cut that amount from other parts of the budget or find another way to raise the money.

Susan McMillan -- 621-5645

smcmillan@mainetoday.com

 

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