Local News

Budget cuts create larger classes

Posted September 24, 2009 6:57 a.m. EDT
Updated September 24, 2009 8:44 a.m. EDT

— More students in North Carolina public schools are in larger classes this year due to state budget cuts that eliminated teaching positions.

Normally, the maximum number of students per classroom is capped at 24 from kindergarten through third grade, 29 from fourth through ninth grade, and 32 from tenth through twelfth grade.

When it reduced school funding this year to balance the state budget, though, the General Assembly gave school districts permission to balance their budgets by increasing class sizes in fourth through twelfth grade.

Principals and teachers across Wake County said they are generally seeing larger classes.

Nathan Carter's fifth grade class at Dillard Drive Elementary jumped from 19 students last year to 29 this year. East Cary Middle teacher Kim Price said her classroom is as full as it's ever been in her career.

"In 27 years, I've never had 43 children in a classroom," Price said.

Teachers and education experts said the extra students create more work for teachers and can lead to less academic instruction for students.

"The teacher is going to have more things to do just to manage the class that have nothing to do with instruction," said Dr. Harris Cooper, chair of the psychology department at Duke University.

"Not only is it classroom management, trying to keep all 29 in line, it's also the time you can spend with each student, specifically working with them one-on-one," Carter said.

Cooper, who conducts education research, said that children tend to do better in smaller classes.

"What the research shows is that there's a relationship between how many kids there are in a class and how well they do in school," Cooper said. "The relationship is really a curve, so the addition of any child will have an impact."

Officials with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction said they won't know average class sizes statewide this year until November.