Board Votes to Make 5th Grade Class Sizes Smaller

A large turnout at the Oskaloosa School Board meeting on Tuesday evening. by Hailey Brown

A large turnout at the Oskaloosa School Board meeting on Tuesday evening. by Hailey Brown

By Hailey Brown

(Oskaloosa, Iowa) – On Tuesday, May 8, the OCSD Board of Education voted for a change in plans regarding fifth-grade class sizes. Although originally planning for seven sections of students, board members changed their minds to institute eight sections of students instead after members had a discussion with the fifth-grade team and received calls from parents concerned about the large class sizes of the students.

“With eight sections, they will be in the area of 22 vs. 25/26 [students per class],” said Oskaloosa Superintendent Russ Reiter.

While it may seem like common sense to make class sizes smaller to facilitate better learning for students, other factors must be considered before reaching a sensible conclusion, such as cost analysis and research data. Hiring associates to help with larger class sizes would cost less than hiring a full-time teacher to take on more sections, according to Reiter, which would help tremendously with budgeting concerns. Adding an additional section may lead to overspending down the road, he warned.

According to the Center for Public Education, researchers have not found a connection between smaller classes and higher student achievement nationally. However, research does show that when class size reduction programs are well-designed and implemented, student achievement rises as class sizes drop.

On a local scale, concerns about misbehavior in the classroom and overextending staff took the forefront of discussion.

“I understand this current fourth-grade class has a lot of behavior issues and… there is a higher academic need for some of the kids,” said OCSD board member Amanda McGraw. “I don’t think adding more kids to a classroom is benefitting anyone.”

McGraw emphasized the need for more resources and attention to the needs of staff to combat behavioral issues of students. After weighing the pros and cons to fifth-grade class sizes, the board agreed that adding another section would add more value to the district, settling on eight sections total.

The Oskaloosa School Board meets the second and fourth Tuesday of every month at 6:00 PM in the George Daily Auditorium Board Room. The next meeting is set for Tuesday, May 22, 2018. As always with open meetings, the public is invited to attend.

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