Fewer in the Class, More Will Pass

Photo Credit: Ashley Lynch

Smaller class sizes are much more beneficial to both students and staff at EHHS. Currently, classes hold roughly 20-30 students, but cutting this number down would result in the improvement of teacher-student relationships and overall academic achievement of the student body.

With the 2019-2020 school year kicking off, the high school community is just beginning to become acclimated with their new classes. Some teachers are undergoing incredible changes compared to past years. For example, Spanish and French instructor, Mrs. Carla Marsico, is faced with the task of gearing her Spanish 2 Honors class to seventeen students, as compared to the daunting thirty-one that she taught previously. She states, “Less is always better… In a larger class, there is a need for more discipline, more grading, more stress.” In having a smaller class this year, Mrs. Marsico is excited to revamp her ‘Writers Workshop’ in which she would meet with her students in groups of four and aid them in peer editing one anothers’ work. With such a packed class the previous year, this activity had to be put on hold, as there was minimal class time to meet. This is definitely not the only instance in which a teacher’s lessons were inhibited as a result of the number of students they had.

One of the biggest obstacles in the way of teachers with higher classroom populations is their inability to sufficiently form a long-lasting bond with their students. In many cases, there is not much time to connect with every student on an individual basis over the course of a class period. In respect to his current twenty-six-student class, Mr. Anthony Vaspasiano mentioned, “I feel sometimes that I am doing a disservice to the student, as I cannot reach everyone within the class time… whether it be academic or social, I’m here for them.” Teachers are not the only ones that feel that there is a lack of communication, though. According to sophomore Megan Gaudioso, “If there are more kids in the class, I don’t really get to know the teacher as well versus when there are less kids, I actually get the chance to know and talk to them.” In minimizing the number of students per class, teachers have more time to talk to them on a personal level. One of EHHS’ goals for the upcoming school year is to improve student-teacher relationships, so by reducing class sizes just a tad, a favorable outcome could easily be obtained. One-on-one attention is also sometimes in a student’s best interest, although it is not always easily attainable. Naiiya Patel, an advocate for individualized learning, explains that her larger classes are too cramped to give her and her classmates the opportunity to do so. This alone could result in a severe drop in the academic achievement of EHHS teens.

Lack of concentration is the most common complaint amongst those who have experienced an enormous class size. With so many people in one compacted area, there is a tendency for the noise level to quickly go through the roof. It may be simple for a teacher to ease two or three loud voices, but twenty-five students all talking at once is much harder to handle. Naiiya added, “When I am reading a passage for a test, and people keep talking, it’s really hard for me to concentrate. With a class that big, there is never someone not talking, so it’s hard for me to focus.” Megan has had similar struggles, especially in her more vigorous classes.

Filling classes with more students is not always a detriment, though. A variety of students of different backgrounds could lead to more diverse perspectives and therefore make for a much more valuable discussion. Teens may even have more of a chance of being placed in a class that they need or are interested in, seeing as the number of students allowed is greater.

According to the Goldman School of Public Policy, a national survey of 50,000 Americans found that reducing class sizes was perceived to be the best fit method of betterment for learners. In 1989, the Project Star experiment was conducted in order to potentially explain the impact of filling classes with more students. The results: a student assigned to the smallest classes had a reading score of about 8% higher than students in the medium-sized classes. Additionally, the smaller-class students achieved an average of roughly 9% higher in math. How does this compare to East Haven? The percentage of Connecticut students reaching proficiency in mathematics settles around 46%, yet EHHS’ statistics waver around 19%. Are class sizes currently acting as a detriment to student success?

In closing, smaller classes are definitely the way to go; not only for the benefit of students, but also for the wellbeing of teachers, too. EHHS offers a wide range of courses with various student sizes, but it is clear that those subjects with fewer teens have reaped the most benefits come the final semester.