Monday, August 31, 2020

AV #214- Addenda - Teachers, Time, and Class Size



Teachers, Time, and Class Size


A.       CEA and 2018 Teacher Survey: “Teacher Voices: Teachers Know What Their Schools and Students Need.”  

B.       Must class size be a political issue?

C.       One example of how class size was lost inside a partisan debate: Amendment 73.

D.      How does Colorado compare to other states? Answer: bigger classes than most.

E.       What the Colorado Department of Education tells us on class size. (It doesn’t. Teacher-student ratio ≠ class size.)

F.       What Denver Public Schools tells us on average class size. (Nothing.)

G.      The numbers our high schools tell us, celebrating their success. (But not a word on class size.)

H.      A parent’s struggle to find the average class size of his/her child’s school.

I.         On the other hand, what one Denver charter school network will tell us on class size,

J.        Where class size information is made public.(Take the quiz)

K.       Six more examples from private schools announcing their average class size.  

L.      Policymakers - Efforts to address class size - in other states and in Colorado. 

M.     Retention and Attrition of Teachers in Colorado – related to Time and Class Size.




Addendum A – CEA Teacher Survey - “Teacher Voices: Teachers Know What Their Schools and Students Need,” Oct. 29, 2018 (over 700 teachers responded)

In the fall of 2018 over 740 Colorado teachers took part in a survey developed by the National Education Association, My School, My Voice. The Colorado Education Association’s analysis of the survey made the case—with the impending vote on Amendment 73 in mind—that the teachers’ concerns gave additional evidence for support of the ballot initiative. 

“Teacher Voices: Teachers Know What Their Schools and Students Need,” Oct. 2018 Survey.

   Because Colorado underfunds public education by over half a billion dollars per year, the

Colorado Education Association wanted to ask teachers a simple question: What are the

greatest needs identified by teachers for schools in Colorado?

   Their answers show they know exactly what their students and schools need: 74% of teachers

in Colorado report that schools need to reduce class sizes and allow staff time to collaborate

if we want to provide students with the education they deserve. 

   CEA collected data from over 700 licensed educators. The needs are clear.

74%    of educators need smaller class sizes.    

63%    of educators need more time for planning and professional collaboration.

   If we're serious about every child's future, we must create a learning environment with class sizes that enable teachers to connect one-on-one with each student.


You might ask: wasn’t CEA’s argument here designed, more than anything, to win support for the ballot issue?

See Addendum B.

                            SMALL CLASS SIZE MATTERS MOST FOR STUDENTS     

Teacher Voices survey finds Colorado students benefit most from small class size; shows why funding increase and Amendment 73 are needed


   Colorado educators identified ‘class sizes that allow for one-on-one attention’ as the most critical need for their students.

   “If we’re serious about creating schools our students deserve, we must have class sizes that enable teachers to connect one-on-one with each student,” said Amie Baca-Oehlert, president of the Colorado Education Association. “We have a tremendous opportunity before us with Amendment 73 to increase funding for public education and address issues such as class size. CEA is developing legislative priorities to build off last spring, when we saw record numbers of educators come to the Capitol and advocate for their students. Educators will not be silent in this session.

   In Colorado, 742 educators took the online survey by considering 32 areas of concern for student success and placing checkmarks next to those areas where their school needed to improve. Teachers identified 13 student needs per school, on average, that are not being met in a state that underfunds students and educators by several hundred million dollars each year. The survey respondents represented more than 400 schools in more than 80 districts.

   The smaller class size item was selected by 74% of the participating educators, including Denver teacher Suzette Montera-Smith, who has taught 36 kindergarteners in one class. “It is more like crowd control rather than differentiated instruction when there are more than 18 five-year-olds in a classroom. With larger class sizes, it is very difficult to meet my students’ needs.”

   Another respondent, Cherry Creek teacher Cathy Keller, has had up to 36 students in a World History class. She called reducing class size “the single most important thing we could do to improve educational outcomes, and it’s the thing constantly ignored.”

   The CEA report aligns with major education studies which show that decreasing class size raises student achievement and graduation rates while decreasing discipline issues. The report also debunks corporate-backed education research that falsely claims class size reductions have no effect on student outcomes. “Anyone who says that class size doesn’t matter does not understand teaching,” said Mesa County teacher Christy Anderson, who has had 32 kindergarteners in her largest class.


Addendum B – You say: But isn’t CEA pushing its agenda? I say: Must class size be a political issue?

Given that the survey and the report, above, come to us from the NEA and CEA, some will too easily dismiss these findings. They won’t even be able to hear the powerful words from teachers like Suzette Montera-Smith, Cathy Keller, and Christy Anderson—based on their day-to-day experience in the classroom.

It is incredibly sad that “class size” has become a political football. I fault both sides for using the issue in ways that make it difficult to have a reasonable conversation: one where we explore the pros and cons of how many students we assign--to a class, and to a teacher, and where we appreciate the consequences.

On one hand, the CEA’s survey reveals the teachers’ perspective. Nothing partisan there. The CEA’s unnecessary slam of the research, however, just gets in the way of its message. Why not simply acknowledge that conclusions from the research, from various quarters, are mixed? Economists like Eric A. Hanushek have given careful study to this issue for decades* and have made up their minds on the limited benefits of smaller classes. But as I read Hanushek’s argument, class size seems to be an abstract problem. He and like-minded researchers may have all the numbers crunched, and yet miss the truth if they fail to take into account what teachers experience every day. (Hanushek - “The evidence on class size,”[i](1999); “Evidence, Politics, and the Class Size Debate,”[ii] 2002).

On the other hand, conservatives have been equally guilty of framing this issue in political terms. In “The upcoming experiment with class size reduction” (Fordham Institute’s “Flypaper”), Dale Chu suggests that Covid 19—almost perversely—might give us some useful data on smaller classes. But in doing so he manages to pigeon-hole proponents of smaller classes. 

Since time immemorial, the education establishment has sung the praises of smaller class sizes, despite the limited evidence. Teachers, the argument goes, would be able to provide more individualized attention and students would be able to learn faster and perform better. Because of the enormous costs involved, the class size debate has historically been fought at the margins—going from maximums of say 25 students in a class to no more than 21 students….

The irony in all of this is that after years of lobbying to bring down class sizes, teachers unions are about to get their wish, albeit not under the circumstances anyone would have imagined or preferred.[iii] 

Do we really think those three teachers quoted in CEA’s report represent “the education establishment”?  

One final comment here. The debate on class size is not helped when the U.S. Secretary of Education makes a statement that can be used, wrongly, as one more point of contention. Many conservatives would disassociate themselves with a number of comments Betsy DeVos has made, such as this one—given in a presentation to the House Subcommittee on Labor-HHS-Education Appropriation—on March 26, 2019. 

      There is no evidence that the Federal taxpayer investments in existing professional development programs or class-size reduction have meaningfully improved student outcomes. In fact, students may be better served by being in larger classes, if by hiring fewer teachers, a district or state can better compensate those who have demonstrated high ability and outstanding results. (“Fiscal Year 2020 Budget Request.”[iv] 

But guess who else made the same blunder? President Obama’s Secretary of Education joined Microsoft’s founder in making similar claims about the benefits of larger classes ten years ago. Which I mocked in AV #73 - “For Arnie Duncan and Bill Gates – A lump of coal in your stocking,” Dec. 2010.[v] (Moral: No matter your party, being inside the D.C. Beltway is a sure way to lose touch with what teachers know…)

So much unnecessary noise.

Can we please examine the issue of class size and the number of students in our four or five classes on its own terms? (A good place to start: “Smaller Class Sizes: Pros and Cons,” Public School Review, May 2000.[vi])

And while I know that budgets and resources matter, we lose sight of how important this issue is when we lump it in with how to fund our schools. As I show in Addendum C.

Let’s keep our eye on this one key element, in and of itself. One that, more than most realize, districts and schools, given sufficient autonomy, can control. 


Addendum C – One example of how class size was lost inside a partisan debate: Amendment 73


Do you recall how, in the fall of 2018, the class size issue was tossed around during the larger debate on Amendment 73? Proponents suggested, some even promised, that greater taxpayer support for education would lead to smaller classes. I doubt that is a winning argument in most of our 146 rural districts, where class size is not the problem we see in urban schools. I am equally dubious that many voters were ready to believe that the $1.6 billion raised would significantly reduce the class size in their child’s third-grade classroom. 

Especially as Amendment 73 itself made no assertions about decreasing class size.

From BallotPedia, Colorado Amendment 73

Education funding under the measure. The measure encourages the state legislature to adopt a new public school finance act that distributes funding to public schools. The new distribution formula must be transparent and easy to understand, and meet criteria related to:

·      an increase in base per pupil funding;

·      equitable allocation of funding among districts, based on certain student and district characteristics;

·      additional funding for certain specialized and early childhood programs; and

·      the recruitment and retention of teachers.[vii]

But if the measure did not speak of lowering our class sizes, advocates argued that would be a logical result of the increase in funding. 

   Proponents were energized by springtime rallies by teachers at the state Capitol. They pointed to Colorado’s below-average per pupil spending, low teachers’ salaries, large class sizes, and the fact that more than half of districts are on four-day weeks.[viii]

Many districts “pledged” to reduce class sizes if Amendment 73 were to pass.

“Amendment 73 portrayed as both lifeline and drag to Colorado’s underfunded schools,”

by Monte Whaley, The Denver Post, Oct. 15, 2018. 

   Proponents say Amendment 73 promises to give local school districts control over their share of the new funding — which is something prior statewide school tax measures didn’t require. So far, more than 70 of the state’s 178 school districts have pledged to hire and retain more teachers, reduce class sizes and boost mental health services with their share of the tax money, should voters approve Amendment 73”

Later in that article we read of the commitment on class size from the two biggest districts in Colorado:

   Denver Public Schools — the state’s largest district — said it will boost pay for teachers, better support student mental health needs, reduce class sizes and expand early childhood education with its cut of Amendment 73 dollars.

   The Jefferson County School District has specified by percentage where the district’s share of the funding will go. The breakout includes 50 percent to attract and retain teachers and staff, 15 percent to lower class sizes and stem staff shortages and 10 percent to expand early childhood education.[ix] 

The Poudre School District (PSD) also assured voters that the funds raise by Amendment 73 would be directed, in part, towards decreasing class size:

   In September, the [PSD] board passed a resolution supporting Amendment 73. In the resolution, the board identified several of its own priorities: 

·         Increasing teacher salaries

·         Smaller class sizes

·         More mental health professionals and counselors

·         More activities and real-world experiences, such as internships and mentorships

-      (Several other priorities were on this list)[x]


The “promises” felt too good to be true. Colorado voters rejected Amendment 73 – 53.6% to 46.4%.

To conclude, much talk of money and smaller classes. As if we can’t have one without the other. Making it all the more difficult, I expect, for us to separate the two issues.

But we must.


Addendum D – How does Colorado compare to other states? Answer: bigger classes than most. 

Before trying to examine the average class size in our state and in our schools, let’s ask how Colorado fares when compared to other states.  Here are three different versions. In the end each finds a similar disparity between our state and the national averages.

1)      The Colorado Department of Higher Education’s 2017 report, “Teacher Shortages Across the Nation and Colorado,” revealed a significant gap between Colorado and national averages. That report stated: “The average student to teacher ratio is higher in [Colorado] at 18:1 versus 16.1 nationwide.”[xi]  As you will see, this is not unlike the gap found in two national reports, which both found the pupil-teacher ratio in Colorado to be among the highest in the United States. 

2)      The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports the on pupil-teacher ratios for each state, using a formula and data similar to what you will see in Colorado’s own reporting in Addendum E.

NCES – Public elementary and secondary teachers … pupil-teacher ratios. The most recent data I could find is from 2016-17.





Unites States


Student Enrollment

Pupil-Teacher Ratio




















16.0 and

These statistics show Colorado’s pupil-teacher ratio was the 10th highest in the country in 2016. NCES data going back to 2000 shows we have consistently had a pupil-teacher ratio well above the national average.

3)   But NCES also provides what I consider a more useful report, and happily a more recent one, from the 2017-18 school year.  In this case the data comes in from a survey of teachers.[xii]


Primary Schools

High Schools

Combined grade schools – primary, middle, and high


Average class size for teachers in self-contained classes

Average class size for teachers in departmentalized instruction

Average class size for teachers in self-contained classes

Average class size for teachers in departmentalized instruction

Average class size for teachers in self-contained classes

Average class size for teachers in departmentalized instruction

United States





















Neighboring states














New Mexico





















! - From NCES: “! Interpret data with caution.”

·         Along with Utah, only five other states in the country had a higher average class size for primary school teachers in self-contained classrooms than Colorado.

·         Along with Utah, only eight other states had a higher average class size for high school teachers in departmentalized instruction than Colorado.

·         This NCES report again puts Colorado among the 10 states with the highest average class size.

Colorado ranks #40 - “What’s the Best State for Teachers” (Education Week, Sept. 23, 2019)[xiii]

Ranking was based largely on salary, pension, potential for income growth, etc.  But 30% was based on such conditions as teacher-student ratio and how supported teachers feel in their jobs.


Useful comparisons, I hope—and further reason for making this study. However, we must be careful about our terms.

As noted above, NCES conducts a survey of teachers to gather its data.[xiv] Questions are specific:


2.9 - During your most recent FULL WEEK of teaching at THIS school, what is the total number of students enrolled in the class you taught? (If you teach more than one self-contained class, report the number from your class with the most students.)

       ___ students

2.10 - During your most recent FULL WEEK of teaching at THIS school, what is the average number of students you taught at any one time?

      ___ students 

This approach, we must understand, asking for the average class size from teachers, differs markedly from what the Colorado Department of Education gathers and reports. Which is why that NCES figure of 19.5 is so different from the figure CDE presents—a 17.1 pupil-teacher ratio (see next section, Addendum E). 

The fundamental difference, before we look at what CDE tells us, is that our state’s reporting is based on an equation: the total number of students in the building — divided by the number of full-time teaching staff. This brings us the pupil-teacher ratio. And it leads to a 17.1 ratio statewide (and similarly impressive rates in most of our 1,400 schools). But this tells us nothing about the average class size. Which, again, is what NCES tries to find out—by asking teachers.


Addendum E - What the Colorado Department of Education tells us on class size. (It doesn’t.) 

Using that mathematical formula (above), the Colorado Department of Education reveals the pupil-teacher ratio across the state and in each school.


Colorado Education Facts and Figures

Summary Information



Student Enrollment

Pupil-Teacher Ratio
















*Not exactly the same as found above – Addendum D, section (2) in the NCES report - but close.

(COMMENT: It would appear the pupil-teacher ratio has improved the past three years. Has it? Is that what Colorado teachers have experienced?)

CDE’s website for school-by-school data[xvi] – 52 pages on the pupil-teacher ratio for 2019-20 – concludes with that 17.1 ratio for the state. On these pages most schools have a student-teacher ratio of under 20:1. A great majority have a ratio under 23:1. Sounds terrific, doesn’t it?

But if course this has no connection with the reality of what the average class size will be in these schools.

I offer a few examples – my thanks to those teachers who helped provide the class sizes in their schools — to stress the difference between the data released by the state, and what teachers really experience and, I would add, what parents most want to know.

Consider the discrepancy between what CDE presents on its website as the “pupil-teacher ratio” for six individual schools, and what teachers actually experience.

1)   Parker Core Knowledge Charter Schools, Douglas County District (where I taught for 5 years, and where I have tutored a little the past two years).

                                       From CDE’s “2019-2020 PUPIL TEACHER RATIO”



PK-12 Count

Teacher FTE

Pupil/ Teacher FTE Ratio

Douglas County

Parker Core Knowledge Charter School




 In fact, class size at PCK is now usually 26 students. For a 7th/ 8th grade teacher this means 26 times four classes = 104 students. (Much harder for an English teacher today than it was back in the early 2000’s, when PCK stayed committed to its early goal of limiting class size to 22—which meant, for me, a total of 88 students.)


2)   North Star Academy, Douglas County (where I taught one semester after a teacher left mid-year).

                                                   From CDE’s “2019-2020 PUPIL TEACHER RATIO”



PK-12 Count

Teacher FTE

Pupil/ Teacher FTE Ratio

Douglas County

North Star Academy




 North Star presents class sizes at its website under School Profile[xvii] - a rather rare feat by a Colorado public school, as we shall see.

Kindergarten 20:1
1st – 5th Grade 27:1
6th – 8th Grade 24:1


3)      ThunderRidge High School, Douglas County

                              From CDE’s “2019-2020 PUPIL TEACHER RATIO”



PK-12 Count

Teacher FTE

Pupil/ Teacher FTE Ratio

Douglas County

ThunderRidge High School




 A teacher there says her average class size is about 25-33. She teaches 5 classes—150 students in all.


4)      Legacy High School, Adams 12

            From CDE’s “2019-2020 PUPIL TEACHER RATIO”



PK-12 Count

Teacher FTE

Pupil/ Teacher FTE Ratio

Adams 12

Legacy High School





A veteran teacher there tells me his average class size is about 32.


5)      Global Village Academy -Aurora, Aurora Public Schools

                               From CDE’s “2019-2020 PUPIL TEACHER RATIO”



PK-12 Count

Teacher FTE

Pupil/ Teacher FTE Ratio

Aurora Public Schools

Global Village Academy Aurora




 An elementary teacher there last year had 52 students – two classes of 26 she would see every other day.


6)      Denver School of Science & Technology: Montview, Denver Public Schools

                                            From CDE’s “2019-2020 PUPIL TEACHER RATIO”



PK-12 Count

Teacher FTE

Pupil/ Teacher FTE Ratio


Denver School of Science & Technology: Montview




Two teachers reported teaching 4 classes each: one had an average class size of 26 (total teaching load: 104); another had an average class size of 28 (total teaching load: 112).


Addendum F - What Denver Public Schools will tell us on class size. (Nothing.)

That is the answer I would give, after looking at the schools’ websites (a look at the first 10 alphabetically). And after three email requests to DPS produced no information.[xviii]

My (admittedly incomplete) search on the website of 10 DPS schools produced not one word on class size.

   1.     Abraham Lincoln High School

2.       Academy 360 Elementary                                  

3.       John Amese Elementary

4.       Asbury Elementary

5.       Ashley Elementary

6.       Barnum Elementary

7.       Beach Court Elementary

8.       Bradley International

9.       Bromwell Elementary

10.    Brown International Academy

We see Letters/Welcome/Posts from Principals, but not one word I could find on class size.

We see Family Handbooks and Family Information and Resources, but not one word on class size.

We sense their pride in declaring they are “1:1 iPad schools,” but not one word on teacher-student ratios.

      (To again point out how CDE’s “pupil-teacher ratios” do not correspond to actual class size, teachers and parents at these schools will roll their eyes at CDE’s ratios for Academy 360 (14.3), Amese (13:1), Asbury (14.4) Ashley (15.9), Beach Court (13.6), Brown International (15.6). Hardly the average class size, true?)

Denver schools report over 33 students in some elementary schools

One article last summer invited a host of questions about class size in several Denver schools. My dismay at what I read inspired me to tackle this issue in AV #214.

“Gentrification Leading to Overcrowded DPS Classrooms,” by Michael Roberts, Westword, 8/19/19

    Today, August 19, marks the official start of the academic year for Denver Public Schools, and some of the classrooms to which students must report this morning are jam-packed.

    Information we've received from local teachers reveal that class sizes of more than thirty students are commonplace at elementary schools throughout multiple sections of the DPS system, and particularly in those neighborhoods that have become favorite destinations for families priced out of their previous homes by gentrification. As of last week, the number of pupils assigned to one south Denver elementary school classroom was 38.

    This last figure exceeds the number DPS prefers for its classrooms. However, Jim Carpenter, the district's executive director for choice and planning, reveals that classes with thirty-plus students are seen as acceptable in many situations.

    “We work to make sure that elementary school class sizes stay below 35 students," Carpenter notes via email. "Typically, they are much lower. When class sizes are greater than that, we work with the Instructional Superintendent and the schools in that region to try and reduce classes without being too disruptive to families and to the school year.”

    … the largest classroom sizes in Denver are often found in areas that have proven attractive to lower-income families. Our sources cite schools in neighborhoods such as Harvey Park, College View/South Platte and Gateway/Green Valley Ranch, where housing prices are more affordable than in the likes of Five Points, Cole and Whittier…

    … For Carpenter, keeping DPS class sizes below 35 is difficult enough, especially right now.[xix] 


Addendum G – The numbers our high schools tell us, celebrating their success. (But not a word on class size.) 

If it is difficult for parents of elementary students to find out, it seems to grow progressively more difficult as we move up to middle and then to high school. Just for your entertainment, here is what is commonly found on the website of our suburban high schools: a School Profile. Usually one page, sometimes two. Packed with 40 or more numbers and percentages. Often much to boast about. But what is missing? 

Does any public high school consider it important enough to indicate the average class size that students encounter in their 5 or 6 or 7 classes? From my online tour of several high schools, apparently not. 

# of students enrolled

% white

% Hispanic

% Asian/Pacific

% Black or African American

% multiracial

% Native American

# in senior class

# of staff

# of staff who are certified teachers

% of teachers with masters or doctorate degrees

# of counselors

# of deans

# of school psychologists

# of support staff

# of extra-curricular activities and clubs

# of varsity sports

# of state championships won

# of sports in which they won these championships

# of student participating in sports annually

% graduation rate of most recent senior class

# highest GPA - weighted and unweighted

# average GPA - weighted and unweighted

# Mean SAT scores for recent graduating class

# of Advanced Placement courses offered in  …

# of subjects

# of students taking AP courses

# of AP exams taken AND …

% of those exams earning a score of 3 or better

# of National AP Scholars

# of AP Scholars with Honors

# AP Scholars with Distinction

# of National Merit Program - Finalists

# of National Merit Program - Semi-Finalists

# of National Merit Program - Commended

% with plans to attend 4-year college

% with plans to attend a 2-year college or career/technical college

% with military commitments

% with plans to work

% of students attending college in-state

% of students attending college out-of-state

So (a parent wonders), will my son or daughter be in a class of 32 where that English teacher is supposed to teach writing, but what if that teacher has (32 x 5) 160 students? If I see such numbers, how can I expect any teacher will provide the attention and support my child desperately needs to write well? Am I even allowed to ask such a basic question? Or is this so much less important than–see above–these other statistics the school is happy to report? 

THAT WAS THEN: High schools and education reform – GOAL: teacher: student ratio, no more than 1:80

 Class size in our high schools was once a key component of education reform efforts in our state and our nation. It was fundamental to Ted Sizer’s work in creating and leading the Coalition of Essential School (CES). In the early 1990’s six Colorado high schools* in the Coalition—I was a close observer of that work—sought to limit the high school teacher’s load to 80 students, the CES-recommended teacher-student ratio. It was a challenge to get there, of course – but in some cases, not impossible.[xx] (*Fort Lupton, Horizon in Adams 12, Pagosa Springs, Pueblo County, Roaring Fork, and Skyview High School in Mapleton).


Addendum H – A parent’s struggle to find the average class size of his/her child’s school

Should it really be this hard?


Imagine a parent who would like to find out the class size at a school where they might wish to enroll their boy or girl. Imagine the confusion, perhaps the frustration too, if they take the same steps I did …

As our example, let’s take Paris Elementary School in Aurora Public Schools.  

We begin our search.

1)       We go to the school website

From there click on the Paris Elementary Fact Sheet - -and you see this:

  • Paris has 310 students in grades P-5. Paris is a preschool site.
  • Paris has 50 staff members.
  • Paris’ student population is 0.6% Native American, 5.2% Asian, 17.7% Black, 69.0% Hispanic, 2.3% White, 1.9% Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander and 3.2% two or more races.
  • Paris students are:  71.0% English Language Learners, 0.0% Gifted/Talented, 10.6% SPED, 95.8% Free or Reduced Lunch. 

Lots of numbers, but nothing on the average class size.

2)      We go back to the school website, click on the Paris Elementary Info Dashboard - There one of the five slides provides different information:

327 students             40 staff

We are puzzled by the inconsistent data–more students, fewer teachers. Still no information on class size. 

3)      So we now go to the Colorado Department of Education’s website. After some hunting, we find the site for student teacher ratios - There we see:

355 students             20.6 Teacher FTE           Student-teacher ratio - 17.3

But is it? Are there 40 teachers - or 20.6? The 17.3 sounds too good to be true, especially when we hear stories of classes of 30 or more. Who to believe? What is a parent to make of all this?

4)      In the end, I simply asked two Aurora Public School staff members who work with Paris and other schools in the district’s Action Zone. Could they give me the average class size? They could, and they did. I promptly received a screen shot of the Class Counts giving the names of the 13 teachers serving the 271 students in grades 1-5, showing how many students were in each class. From there it was easy to do the math: an average class size of 20.8. Terrific!

Now that’s what a parent would like to see!

And yet, should it really be this hard? 

Hardly an example of the accountability and transparency we all proclaim. I can think of few matters where a parent has every reason to expect schools to speak openly and accurately about the size of classes in their building. And for grades 6-12, for schools to report the size of the teaching load for the staff. The more parents are well-informed on class size, the more this is likely to factor in to their school choice.

I can even imagine parents—once armed with the real numbers—might convince administrators to pay more attention to the issues of class size and the lack of time for their teachers. 

We can do much more to make sure schools let their community know the facts about their class size.


Addendum I – On the other hand, what one Denver charter network will tell us on class size

My internet search for a public school that would provide parents with news on a typical class size was coming up empty. But then I came upon the following information at the website for Rocky Mountain Prep, a charter school network. It is more than I could find for most public schools in Colorado.

For one RMP school, Creekside, its Frequently Asked Questions includes this one.

How many teachers are in each classroom?                                                 (All bold mine)

Each three-year-old and four-year-old prekindergarten classroom is taught by a lead teacher and a teaching fellow. In first through fifth grade, one teaching fellow provides additional support for the grade level.

At the website for Creekside and the three other RMP schools, we also see this question and these answers:

How many scholars are in the room?


Prekindergarten classrooms have 16 scholars. There are around 30 students in each kindergarten through fifth-grade classroom.


Berkeley and Southwest (identical language)

Prekindergarten classrooms have 16 scholars. There are no more than 28 students in each kindergarten through fifth-grade classroom.  and



Prekindergarten classrooms have 16 scholars and two teachers. There are 26-30 scholars in each kindergarten through fifth-grade classroom. Our overall student to teacher ratio is nine to one, which helps us ensure all scholars get quality one-on-one and small group time with instructors throughout the day.

I do not see why this kind of transparency on such a fundamental issue is not expected of all schools. Especially in Denver Public Schools, a district that deserves much credit for the steps it has taken to improve the school choice process. Here, though, a key question is not being answered. Parents want to know.

I sent an email to RMP asking for more detail and received this helpful response from CEO James Cryan (July 18) on class sizes:

“We try not to go above 28 K-5, have generally 1 fellow per [Grade level] and SPED interventionists floating. Roughly we're ~9 or 10:1 instructional staff to students. PK is 16:2 for licensing reasons.”

Cryan also sent a Budget Roll-up (projections, pre-Covid 19) for the RMP schools, which included this:

SY 20-21 BUDGET ROLL-UP          Creekside            Southwest          Fletcher               Berkeley

Total Enrollment                              598                         425                         554                         298

Average K-5 Class Size                   27.5                        21.2                        27.3                        17.8


Addendum J - Where class size information in Colorado is publicly available   (Take the quiz!) 

If you hunt for the average class size in education in Colorado, it is interesting to see where the answers are available. Here are six such instances. Based on the numbers provided, can you guess which school or college in Colorado is being described? Answers below.

Match the description of the average class size on the left with the school or college on the right

A.     Average Class Size for 2018-2019 - 16

1.      Colorado State University (Public) –

B.   The average class size is 16.3 students and classes are officially limited to 25 students unless there are two professors, in which case the limit is 32.

2.   Ave Maria Catholic School (Private – in Parker, CO – where I taught for two years) -

B.      Class Sizes –

Regular Class Size

2-9 students: 10% of classes
10-19 students: 25% of classes
20-29 students: 25% of classes
30-39 students: 13% of classes
40-49 students: 8% of classes
50-99 students: 11% of classes
Over 100 students: 8% of classes

3.   Community College of Aurora – (Public)


D.  Average class size: 15   

      Maximum class size: 20

4.   U.S. Air Force Academy (Public)

E.   Class sizes –

Classes with

                fewer than 20 students: 65.5%
                20-49 students:                 34.4%
                50 or more students:        0.1%

5.  Colorado College – (Private)


F.  From FAQs (Frequently asked Questions)

What is your class size?

There is a maximum capacity of 24 students per class in Kindergarten and First grade with a Teacher and Instructional Assistant, 26 students per class in Second through Fifth grade, and 27 students per class in Sixth through Eighth grade. There are two classes per grade level.

6.  Colorado Academy (Private) -



NOTE: Not one is a K-12 public school – because that information is generally NOT PUBLICLY AVAILABLE!

ANSWERS     A - 3;  B – 5;  C – 1;  D – 6;  E – 4;  F – 2


LESSON:  Many private schools present their average class size much as Colorado Academy and Ava Maria Catholic Schools do– see more examples in Addendum K. I see no reason why we can’t ask public schools to be equally forthright in telling prospective families: here is what you can expect.



Addendum K - Six more examples from private schools


Four private schools in Colorado

I am not surprised to see how many private schools in Colorado inform prospective parents about the small size of their classes. It is an essential quality of the education for their child that parents support—financially and otherwise. Parents know that such small class sizes are not typical for most of their local public schools.

Fountain Valley School– average core class 11 - Quick Facts:

Colorado Rocky Mountain School – average class size 12 - At a Glance: 

Regis Jesuit High School – average Class size – 21 -

St. Mary’s Academy FAQ- What is the average class size? 

Lower School: 15-20 / Middle School: 14-15 /High School: 18-20 – 

Massachusetts, Vermont, and New York –

Three schools where I taught. Two private, one public.

Information prominently displayed when you open the websites for Eaglebrook and Emma Willard. 

My first teaching job, 1975-77


My second teaching job, 1978-81


My third teaching job, 1984-88, Private

Eaglebrook School (boys)    Deerfield, MA

10  average class size

Champlain Valley Union High (coed)

Hinesburg, VT

No response to my email requests. In 1980, average class size was 22.

Emma Willard School (girls)    Troy, NY

12-14  average class size


COMMENT: Is tuition at Eaglebrook and Emma Willard incredibly high? At over $65,000 for boarding school students, absolutely. Do these schools have resources unavailable to most public schools in our country? Of course. Does that mean that the example they set—the ideal classroom size—is forever out of reach to public education? Perhaps. 

But does this mean K-12 public education in America cannot aspire to move closer to this model, rather than further away? I hope not. There are a million reasons for the different opportunities—the inequities, as some will call it—between what students at the nation’s leading boarding schools experience, compared to what students in our public schools encounter in classrooms of 30 or 35. But given the resources public schools have, they can still make choices. One choice is to make smaller classes a priority. 

One of my cousins in Florida had a successful career in IT. At age 60 he decided to become an elementary teacher. By 2010 the Florida law was fully implemented (schools had been given several years to bring class sizes down to meet the state mandate). I asked for his thoughts on the policy.

   “We really think our law is good for education. I think the numbers … were arrived at very responsibly. After over a year with class sizes in compliance for my 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade classes, I feel that the numbers are just right. I have 18, 22, and 22 and feel like I have a good teaching relationship with all of my students.”

Addendum L – Policymakers - Efforts to address class size 

Can states pass laws that govern class size? Yes.


Has it been done? In other states, yes.


Other states   -   Two examples


Florida – “In 2002, Florida voters approved an amendment to the state constitution mandating the limits. The law caps the number of students in core classes, such as English,

to 18 students in prekindergarten through third grade,

22 students in grades four to eight and

25 students in grades nine to 12.”


North Carolina – In 2018 passed HB 80, which

“Requires that the average class size for kindergarten through third grade not exceed 19 students to 1 teacher in a given school administrative unit for the 2019-2020 school year (Sec. 2).

“Requires that the actual size of any given kindergarten through third grade class not exceed 22 students to 1 teacher for the 2019-2020 school year (Sec. 2).

State and District Class Size Laws and Policies

Here are some notable examples of class size policies and limits found at state and local levels.

1. Florida

2. Idaho

3. Nevada

4. North Carolina

And 7 other states or cities.


The Class Size Matters website present the policies passed in these and several other states creating limits on class size, as well as similar restrictions passed by such cities as Boston and New York, San Diego and Los Angeles. (See box)

Colorado – Virtually no success to date. Time to try again? 

Colorado has made several efforts to address the concern that the size of our classes had grown too large. Here is a short review. We can see the good intentions in such bills, and yet we must recognize how little has actually come of such attempts. (State funding, of course, is a huge factor.) 

For a host of reasons touched on in this report, Colorado policymakers need to try again. They must ask what steps they can take to create the right conditions for our teachers to be successful, conditions that enable them to continue in their chosen profession. Policymakers should realize by now that, without imposing limits on our class sizes, we are making it too hard for our teachers. To say nothing of how hard we make it for students who want to be known, who want to be part of a community, who want to be more than student number 35.  

1)  In 2000, HB-1213 – The Class-Size Reduction Act of 2000 - 

ARTICLE 85 - Class Size Reduction Act - 22-85-101.

HOUSE BILL 00-1213 / STATE OF COLORADO / BY REPRESENTATIVES Tupa, Gordon, Plant, Williams S., and Windels; also SENATOR Thiebaut. 



·      Limits the average class size of core classes in elementary schools to 23 students and the size of any single core class to 25 students unless the state board has granted a waiver;

·      Limits the average class size of core classes in middle schools and junior high schools to 25 students and the size of any single core class to 27 students unless the state board has granted a waiver; and 

·      Limits the average class size of core classes in senior high schools to 27 students and the size of any single core class to 30 students unless the state board has granted a waiver.


However, this bill did not pass.  It was postponed indefinitely by the House Education Committee. 


2) In 2000, Amendment 23 was approved by the voters. Language in the Amendment indicated state funds would be directed toward class size reduction.


As a result, in 2001, the legislature passed bills towards the implementation of Amendment 23.


                                                                                                                                                (All bold mine)

22-32-109.6. Board of education - specific duties - class size reduction plans

(I)   The voters approved section 17 of article IX of the state constitution with the intent that the increased funding of public education be used for specific and accountable purposes to improve the state’s public schools.

(II)   Elementary school teachers support reducing class size in early grades; and

(III)  Parents have indicated that reducing class size, especially in early grades, is one of their top priorities for public schools.

(b)   It is the general assembly’s duty to ensure that the one-percent increase in statewide base per pupil funding required by section 17 of article IX of the state constitution be used in a manner intended by the voters.


That year the legislature also passed Article 55, “State Policies Relating to Section 17 of Article IX of the State Constitution.” 


22-55-101 to 108 – Legislative declaration, definitions, procedures, etc.  Included:


22-55-108 – Accountability

Each school district in the state shall adopt a continuous plan for the use of the revenues distributed to the school district pursuant to sections 22-55-106 and 22-55-107… … The plan shall include, but need not be limited to, a statement concerning the need for lower class sizes in school districts with a total enrollment of more than six thousand pupils and the need for increased funding for textbooks in the school district as determined based on discussions in public meetings held in the school district to address the class size and textbook funding issues and whether the need will be addressed by the plan.” 

However, in the 2007 School Finance Act – Senate Bill 07-199 – the requirement for the class size reduction plans was repealed.


See SB07-199   SECTION 28. Repeal. 22-20-114.5 (1) (c), 22-30.5-105 (2) (b), 22-30.5-110 (2) (c), 22-30.5-508 (2), 22-32-109.6 (2) (b), (2) (c), (2) (e), (3), and (4), and 22-54-104 (5) (a) (XII), Colorado Revised Statutes, are repealed. 

Furthermore, the Great Recession of 2008-2010 led the legislature to revise Amendment 23’s “funding mandate.” If one goal of Amendment 23 included class size reduction, by 2007 such efforts were over.


3)  Under statutes on the duties of the Board of Education, a section on “Safe school reporting requirements” speaks of data collection and refers to “the average class size.” But this is a misnomer. That is not the data being collected and reported, as I demonstrated in Addendum E. The formula – dividing the number of students enrolled by the number of full-time teachers in the school – produces a (much lower) ratio that does not reflect the average class size. 

22-32-109.1 – Board of education – specific powers and duties – safe school plan – conduct and discipline code – safe school reporting requirements

(2) Safe school plans

(b) Safe school reporting requirements

(VII) The average class size for each public elementary school, middle school or junior high school, and senior high school in the state calculated as the number of students enrolled in the school divided by the number of full-time teachers in the school.


NOTE: While 22-32-109.1 has been amended several times in the past 20 years, the language defining how schools should report the “average class size” has been constant for at least the last ten years. The School Reform Act of 2000, SB-186, in describing what would be on the new school report cards, wrestled with the term of “student-teacher ratios.’’[xxi] But for most of the past 20 years, from what I have learned, the definition above – based on the calculation as defined in – is the one used by our state. 

However, although this is what the principal of each school is required to report to the school board, it is not – as I have shown – the average class size. When even state law misuses the term, no wonder many of us do the same. By making this fundamental error in how we define “average class size,” we may not be intentionally fooling anyone, but it masks the truth.

And this keeps us from seeing what is such a critical issue for teachers, their time, and their ability to meet the needs of all their students.


Addendum M - Retention and Attrition Teachers in Colorado– related to Time and Class Size?

Working conditions greatly impact where they teach. Working conditions in schools serving low-income students are reported as being more challenging due to lower pay, higher stress, fewer teaching resources, larger class sizes, school facility conditions, and less administrative support. These factors are less prevalent in more affluent schools…”   

 From “Teacher Shortages Across the Nation and Colorado”[xxii] (CDHE, 2017)


   Do we fully appreciate these “other factors” and their impact on retention and attrition? Chalkbeat Colorado’s article on how Denver has provided incentives for teachers to work in high-poverty schools was inconclusive.[xxiii] DPS Superintendent Susana Cordova emphasized that the financial incentives were not “the only way Denver is trying to improve conditions in high-poverty schools. The district provides more per-pupil funding to those schools," Chalkbeat reported, “and helps pay for more teacher coaches, which is important given that high-poverty schools tend to have more novice teachers than schools that serve a wealthier student population.”

“These are all ways we’re trying to move the needle,” [Cordova] said, while acknowledging there is still work to do. That work, she said, includes collaborating with teachers on what else the district can do to encourage more teachers to come and stay.

   The article continued:

   Teachers in the schools where retention has gone down every year since the district began offering the highest-priority incentive have some ideas. Nicole Fetter, a middle and high school history teacher at West Leadership Academy, said smaller class sizes and more mental health support for students would go further than any monetary bonus ever could.


   Chalkbeat produced a table showing Denver schools that had received “the highest-priority incentive” since the district began this offer in 2015. At least 10 of those schools still revealed a deeply troubling low teacher retention rate. To address it, as Nicole Fetter suggested, there might be another approach.


                DPS schools    

Teacher Retention from 2017-18 to 2018-19

1.       Castro Elementary


2.       DCIS at Ford


3.       DCIS at Montbello


4.       Goldrick Elementary


5.       International Academy of Denver at Harrington


6.       Lake Middle


7.       Noel Community


8.       Oakland Elementary


9.       Schmitt Elementary


10.    Trevista at Mann



Teacher turnover – compare and contrast

Among higher teacher turnover rates in urban districts

2018-19 to



Among lower teacher turnover rates in Colorado

2018-19 to 2019-20





Adams 14


Pueblo 70








Cherry Creek




St. Vrain


“Personnel Turnover Rate by District and Position Categories (2019-2020 compared with 2018-2019)”  -



[v] Another View #73 – included this quote from Arnie Duncan: “… in secondary schools, districts may be able to save money without hurting students, while allowing modest but smartly targeted increases in class size….”

[vi] Do smaller class sizes make a difference? We look at both sides of the issue,” Updated May 13, 2000, by Grace Chen.

[xi] “Teacher Shortages Across the Nation and Colorado,” CDHE, Dec. 2017, p. 34,

[xii] “National Teacher and Principal Survey,” U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics,

[xiii] “What’s the Best State for Teachers? This Year’s Answer Might Surprise You,” Education Week, Sept. 23, 2019,


2017-18 SCHOOL YEAR, U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics,

[xviii] Beginning on July 14 I sent email requests to the DPS Office of Choice and Enrollment seeking information. On August 11 my third request was forwarded by the Office of Choice and Enrollment to the Communications office. Still no response.

[xx] At Pagosa Springs High School: “The average teaching load decreased from 125 students per teacher under the traditional schedule to 70 with blocks (1992-1993),” from draft of evaluation of Re:Learning in Colorado conducted by InSites, submitted to the Gates Family Foundation in 1996.

[xxi] From the School Reform Bill of 2000, SB-186 – On School Report Cards:



[xxiii] The Denver district believes incentives keep good teachers at hard schools. The data is mixed,” by Melanie Asmar, (Feb. 8, 2019),