Class sizes: How your local school stacks up -- A statewide and national glimpse
Illinois is one of only 14 states across the country that doesn’t have statewide legislation enforcing class size limits.
With 852 school districts and 3,888 schools between them, disparities in local economies, approach to various programs, and differing degrees of union clout result in a wide range of student to teacher ratios.
Sometimes, class sizes are capped in districts through teachers unions’ collective bargaining agreements, allowing for grievances to be filed if classes exceed the contract. In other places, like guidelines are simply guidelines and therefore unenforceable.
It’s a hot-button issue for the Chicago Teachers’ Union, which is currently negotiating a contract and pushing for a limit of 23- to 24- students per classroom in its elementary schools.
As students (and parents) head back to the books in the coming days across the state, here’s a look at how crowded classrooms are across Illinois:
A statewide glimpse:
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, Illinois ranks 35th for elementary schools and 36th for secondary schools, in terms of class sizes. Statewide, class sizes have hovered, on average between 20 and 21 students over the last five years.
Elementary class sizes are traditionally lower than those of secondary schools.
We drilled down to the district level, crunching the vast amount of data available on the Illinois State Board of Education’s website.
●Rich Township High School District 227 in Matteson
-3 schools, with an average of 12 students per class.
●Morrison Community Unit School District 6 in Whiteside
-four schools, dipped from being slightly above the statewide average of 21 students in 2014 to an average of 13 students per class last year.
●United Township High School District 30 in East Moline
-has an average of 13 students per class at the district’s one high school.
●South suburban Homewood Flossmoor Community High School District 233
-has an average of 14 students per class.
●Gibson City-Melvin Sibley Community Unit School District 5 in downstate Gibson City
-has an average of 15 students per classroom.
These districts all top the list at 27 students per class, on average.
●Indian Prairie Community Unit District 204 - a large Unit district with 32 schools in west suburban Aurora
●O’Fallon Community Consolidated School District 90 - an elementary district with seven schools in St. Clair County near St. Louis
●Lemont Bromberek School District 113, which has 3 elementary and middle schools in southwest suburban Lemont
Parents for Teachers, a watchdog parental group for Chicago Public School Students, found this spring that 13 elementary school classrooms in the state’s largest district had over 40 students, including one in the Englewood neighborhood with 42 students.
Nationally, of the six largest states, California, Florida and Texas have class size mandates on the books, while Illinois, Pennsylvania and New York do not.
California’s law, passed in 1996, capped kindergarten through third grades at 20 students per class, and provided funding for schools interested in reducing class sizes.
Texas caps kindergarten through fourth grades at 22 students per class, under a 1995 rule.
Florida in 2003 moved to cap preschool through third grades at 18 students per class, fourth through eighth grades at 22 students per class and high school at 25 students per class.
New York City caps kindergarten classes at 25 students, grades 1-6 at 32 students, 33 students in grades 4-8, and 34 students in high schools, except for gym or music, where classes can have as many as 50 students.
Current national data is difficult to find, we discovered.
Here’s a look at average class sizes in elementary and high school classrooms in the six largest states, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. But the most recent numbers are from 2011-12:
California: Elementary 25.4, Secondary 30
Florida: ** not available
Illinois: Elementary 23.5, Secondary, 26.4
Texas: Elementary 18.6, Secondary 23.6
Pennsylvania: Elementary 22.6, Secondary 21.4
New York: Elementary 21.5, Secondary 22.5
Comparatively, here are the numbers from 2007-08:
California: Elementary 21.6, Secondary 29.9
Florida: Elementary 18.5, Secondary 25.4
Illinois Elementary 21.8, Secondary 23.1
Texas: Elementary 17.8, Secondary 21.9
Pennsylvania: Elementary 21.2, Secondary 21.4
New York: Elementary 18.6, Secondary 21.7
Evidence “supports the reputation that the relationship between class size and achievement is linear,” David Figlio and Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, two Northwestern University Professors, wrote in a recent paper for the State Board of Education, entitled Class Size Literature and What it Means for Illinois. “The research shows that students perform better in small classes. This is especially the case for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, who experience even larger gains that average students when they are placed in smaller classes,” the professors wrote.
Sources: Illinois State Board of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Parents For Teachers, Chicago Teachers Union
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*Meghan Coleman contributed.
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