Image courtesy of “criminalatt”; freedigitalphotos.net
Many parents of public school children wonder whether overcrowded classrooms will affect their child’s ability to learn, particularly in elementary school grades. While not much study has been done on the effects of overcrowded classrooms on a child’s learning and retention abilities, there is some evidence to suggest that they may hinder children’s success on some levels.
The effect on a child’s learning ability in overcrowded classrooms may be the direct result of the impact overcrowding has on the teacher. Here’s why:
- Teachers in overcrowded classrooms may be spread too thin and unable to give each student the one-on-one attention he or she needs.
- If children are not given the attention they need in the classroom, they may fall behind. This can affect not only standardized testing scores, but also the child’s own enjoyment of school and learning, setting them up for failure in the future.
- Teachers in overcrowded classrooms may be more stressed out and overwhelmed, feeling as though they lack the time and resources to really make a difference. This can lead to teacher burnout.
- Teachers may find themselves spending more time managing the classroom organization and student behavior than actually teaching.
- The noise level increases the more students are packed into a classroom, which can affect some students’ ability to learn or work.
- There is often not enough technology and resources to go around in an overcrowded classroom.
- It may be more difficult for the teacher to connect with each student on a deeper level.
Fortunately most public school teachers we know (being the selfless civil servants they are), plan exceptionally well and work incredibly hard to combat the effects of overcrowding. Teachers who love what they do and genuinely care for their students will go above and beyond to connect with each student and ensure they are receiving the best education possible. Unfortunately, if a teacher lacks support and resources from the administration/district and even parents, there is only so much the teacher can do.
According to the U.S. Department of Education:
…there is some evidence…that overcrowding can have an adverse impact on learning.
A study of overcrowded schools in New York City found that students in such schools scored significantly lower on both mathematics and reading exams than did similar students…In addition, when asked, students and teachers in overcrowded schools agreed that overcrowding negatively affected both classroom activities and instructional techniques. (Rivera-Batiz and Marti, 1995)
Corcoran et al. (1988) found that overcrowding and heavy teacher workloads created stressful working conditions for teachers and led to higher teacher absenteeism.
Crowded classroom conditions not only make it difficult for students to concentrate on their lessons, but inevitably limit the amount of time teachers can spend on innovative teaching methods such as cooperative learning and group work or, indeed on teaching anything beyond the barest minimum of required material. In addition, because teachers must constantly struggle simply to maintain order in an overcrowded classroom, the likelihood increases that they will suffer from burnout earlier than might otherwise be the case.” (Source: U.S. Dept. of Education)
As time goes on, we hope more research will be conducted to determine the effects of overcrowded classrooms on learning and retention. Until then, we are pleased to provide small class sizes that foster a positive learning environment for each student and offer plenty of time for teacher-student interaction and concentrated attention.
On the first day of school I walked into my independent AP Chemistry class and was shocked by the Chemistry II class that took place in the classroom. Last year, when I took the class, after the first few weeks (once everyone who ended up dropping the class was gone) there were less than twenty people. What I found on the first day was a classroom completely full. Over thirty-two students were there—so many that people had to sit at the lab tables rather than the normal desks. The five AP students were simply amazed at what we had always known as a quiet class had become, as it was the only Chem II class available.
Then, a few hours later, I went to my Calculus class. Surprise, surprise, every single seat had a person in it. The year before, I knew from my older friends that there were only about twenty students in that class as well.
Even my Advanced French class, which had had about sixteen students, now had over twenty students. After my first day of senior year, I realized a change had occurred in my school: more people were taking higher-level classes, and it was a bit of a problem.
Throughout the year, I’ve noticed three main problems:
- Noise—With all of the students, the noise level, naturally, increases. With louder classrooms, it becomes harder for students to concentrate and harder for teachers to teach. When teachers have to fight over noise to teach, much of the lesson is lost because of how much time is wasted.
- Less Individualized Focus—When there are more students, teachers can’t spend the same amount of time with each student. If a student is struggling, there isn’t enough time to help them because there are thirty or more other students. Sometimes a teacher may not notice the student struggling or may not have the time to give them help they need.
- More People—It’s a simple fact that when there are more people in a classroom, there are more people to deal with. That means more distractions, more levels of intelligence, more everything. This can lead to a slower pace, or too fast of a pace for some and can make it harder to learn.
Unfortunately, there is little students can do to fix the situation. The number of classes and the number of people in those classes is completely up the administration. Clearly, in my school, there is more of an interest in higher-level classes, which means there is a need for more of those classes. However, there is still the same number. Hopefully, over the next few years, that will change.
But, if you are stuck in an overcrowded classroom, there are still some things you can do. Talk to your teacher and make sure she knows if you need extra help. Even if you have to come in after school, it’s best that you do not fall behind. Also, don’t be afraid to address any problems. For example, if you are having trouble concentrating, ask to sit in the front where it may be easier to focus. Teachers want you to learn and are probably just as frustrated about large classroom sizes, so they will be willing to help you find a solution.