Early grade class sizes rise to 14-year high, according to UFT survey

Average class sizes in lower grades swelled to a 14-year high last year, with more than 24 students filling first and second grade classrooms, according to the teachers union’s annual class size report.

The early education class sizes are still significantly under the 32-student limit in the teachers union contract with the city. But United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said keeping down class sizes in these grades was especially important. 

“All our students, especially our youngest children, desperately need smaller class sizes,” Mulgrew said in a statement. 

A total of 6,313 classes were oversized, according to the report, which was culled from contract grievances filed by school chapter leaders. The most stuffed classrooms are concentrated in Queens high schools, including 400 at Hillcrest and 385 at Benjamin Cardozo. 

Class sizes are regularly the top educational issue for public school parents, according to surveys administered by the Department of Education. It’s an especially contentious issue in New York City, where Mayor Bloomberg has insisted that improving teacher quality is better policy than lowering class sizes. 

To address overflowing classes, department officials have long used classroom trailers that are installed in yards adjacent to school buildings. But that solution has brought its own health issues, with many of the trailer failing to pass health inspection tests. In the picture above, classroom trailers housing kindergarten and first grade students at P.S. 32 in Brooklyn were built to deal with the school’s growing population.

A total of 6,220 classes were over sized last year, a significant decrease from a recent high in 2011.

Below is a summary of class size rule in the UFT contract: 

•           Pre-Kindergarten: 18 students with a teacher and a paraprofessional;

•           Kindergarten: 25 students;

•           Grades 1-6 (in elementary schools): 32 students;

•           JHS/MS: 33 students in non-Title I schools; 30 in Title I schools;

•           High school: 34 students; 50 in physical education/gym.