Class Size Fight: Debate Looms During a Year of Overcrowding

Courtney Williams's picture
Friday, October 7, 2011

Every morning at PS 148 in East Elmhurst, Queens, teacher Monique Bertolotti greets her 27 third graders, who speak English as a second language, with a reading exercise.

Classes began on Sept. 13, but because of the volume of students in her class, it was only Wednesday -- three weeks later -- that Bertolotti got to sit down with two new Colombian students, Nicole and Amy, to help them acclimate.

"Normally I would have sat down earlier to do an interview," Bertolotti said. "But there are just so many students." Her school lost $600,000 and eight teachers this year due to budget cuts.

"My situation isn't as bad as my colleagues'," Bertolotti continued. Next door, Joan Barnett has 32 third graders in a classroom without desks. "Really getting to small group instruction is harder," Barnett said.

According to the most recent national data available from the Education Department, student-teacher ratio declined from 22.3 in 1970 to 13.1 in 2008, when class sizes averaged at 20 in elementary schools and 23.4 in secondary schools.

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