Class Size: “Getting Mighty Crowded”

Video from the 2006 MMSD school referendum campaign.

Below is a slightly edited version of an email that I sent last night to the Madison Metropolitan School District Board of Education.

Subject: Class Size
Date: Thursday, August 30, 2012, 7:58 PM

I’m just back from the open house and thought you should know that 5th grade class sizes at Randall are at 28 this year.  Maybe other grades also, the last few years 2nd, 3d, & 4th [at Franklin and Randall] have mostly been at 26 & 27.

The best teachers in the world are better in classrooms with 22,23,24…not 26, 27, 28…  This is no secret.

If you are tempted to say that Randall is a low needs/low poverty school, so this is OK, I’ll remind you of that there were 86 low income and 30+ Ell last year and like Johnny Winston said “it isn’t easy being a poor kid at a rich school.”  I’ll also say that all kids deserve better than 28 per class.

Here is what I think is the most recent public info on class size in MMSD (from this post):
…The first was  an October 3, 2011 discussion of class size, cut short in order to waste more time on Madison Prep, that featured a confusing and incomplete presentation of data.  Despite promises made, in the intervening 10 months  the better data has not come before the Board, nor has the Board returned to the topic.  For what they are worth and those interested, the Middle School info is here (not too bad, but no trend info) and the Elementary info is here  (really useless).  There is nothing worth mentioning on High Schools.  For the hardcore, there was also what looks to be an outdated practices document given to the La Follette Area study committee, note that it says that the non-Sage grades 3-5 limit is 27 (it also still has SAGE classes at 15/1, over a year after MMSD went to 18/1).

As some of you know, I believe that the Board should be more informed and pro-active on class size, and that given the financial implications, this should be part of the budget process.


No responses yet, but it hasn’t been very long since I sent it.  If I get any responses, I will ask for permission to post the here.

For more on class size, see

Thomas J.  Mertz


Filed under "education finance", Best Practices, Budget, Class Size, education, finance, Gimme Some Truth, Local News, Referenda, referendum, School Finance

2 responses to “Class Size: “Getting Mighty Crowded”

  1. One response so far, from Mary Burke:


    Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and observations. We are all committed to raising student achievement in Madison and certainly will be spending more time in the future to see how this can best be done.

    Best wishes,

  2. In context, we need to remember that the numbers of kids enrolled is always changing. Randall is one of the most consistent in the district and we still have changes going on. This is another reason why the district waits to count until 3rd Friday. As of right now (Sept 11, ’12) the five fifth grade classes are at 26, 27, 27, 28 and 28. 28 is supposed to be the max in each class as we are not a SAGE school. I worry more about schools like Huegel where, as an art teacher, I don’t know where in the building I will be teaching this year. This week, I taught in the library. We are waiting on 3rd Friday to find out of Huegel gets another kindergarten class because of their high numbers. If they get another kindergarten class, they will take the one extra classroom in the building that is not being used. If they do NOT get an extra K class, that classroom will be used for me, the part time music teacher and the part time REACH teacher to share. Yes, share. Music, art and REACH in one space at different times throughout the week. Because I can’t treat that room as a real art room, I will be teaching to the space instead of teaching to the MMSD Art Standards. This is the best scenario. Worst scenario is that we don’t get a classroom to share but we will be teaching on a cart, in the academic classrooms. Art in the classrooms. I’m sure the teachers love not being able to prep in their rooms during specials times. And this isn’t the principal’s fault.

    This isn’t a problem of principals or teachers. This is a wider district problem that needs to be solved at a district level.

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