- Class Sizes Rise, Mostly Due to Budget Cuts http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/01/education/01space.html By SHARON OTTERMANMessage 1 of 1 , Nov 30, 2009View Source
Class Sizes Rise, Mostly Due to Budget Cuts
Published: November 30, 2009
Propelled by budget cuts and enrollment increases, class sizes in the New York City public school system rose this year, with high school students and kindergartners in particular feeling the squeeze.
While class sizes went up in all grades in the past year — generally by slightly less than one student per class — increases were larger in major high school subjects. High school English classes now have an average of 26.4 students, up from 24.7 in 2008, according to preliminary figures from the Department of Education. High school science classes now have an average of 27.4 students, up from 26.1.
In kindergarten, a spike in enrollment helped lift class sizes by about 5 percent, according to the city data, which was first reported on Monday in The Daily News. Manhattan had the biggest increase in kindergarten enrollment, a 9 percent gain.
The largest rise, 15 percent, was in District 3, on the Upper West Side , according to an analysis by Class Size Matters, an advocacy organization. Kindergarten class sizes in District 3 rose to 20.9 from 20.5, and in Manhattan to 21 from 20.2.
At P.S. 87 on West 78th Street , for example, kindergarten enrollment has gone up by 60 percent over the past two years. The school has increased its number of kindergarten classes to nine, putting the average size at 22 students, just above the citywide average of 21.7.
New construction, which has attracted families, has driven the increase in District 3, said Jennifer Freeman, a former leader of the overcrowding committee on the district’s Community Education Council. “They are definitely bursting at the seams,” she said.
Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters, said that 38 percent of kindergartners citywide were now in classrooms with more than 25 students. And the average class size in first grade also rose, to 22.
“It’s very sad,” Ms. Haimson said, “since most experts believe that these are the two most important grades to keep class sizes low.”
The main cause of the increase in class sizes was budget cuts, though preliminary numbers indicated that total enrollment increased for the first time in a decade, said William Havemann, a schools spokesman. In a budget decision, the city closed kindergartens that were part of the day-care system of the Administration for Children’s Services. Thousands of children enrolled instead in regular public kindergartens.
Because of the cuts, Mr. Havemann said, there are 1,650 fewer teaching positions this year. “We are encouraged by the fact that we have seen relatively modest increases in class size, at a time when other cities struggling with the same challenges have seen worse,” he said.
Class sizes in the city’s schools dropped through the decade, but the trend was reversed in 2008, despite an influx of hundreds of millions of dollars from the state in a program called Contracts for Excellence, which was intended to reduce class sizes.
Classes in the city in kindergarten through third grade are 22 students on average, about the same as in the 2001-02 school year. The average class size in the upper elementary and middle school grades, however, remains lower than in 2001-02 — 25.8 now, down from 27.3.
More Articles in Education » A version of this article appeared in print on December 1, 2009, on page A30 of the New York edition.