A new study by Parents 4 Teachers (P4T) documents what parents, teachers and students are seeing in classrooms across the city, exploding class sizes—some in excess of 40 students—that make teaching and learning difficult, especially for the city’s youngest children.
P4T, a city-wide parent group, analyzed Chicago Public Schools (CPS) fall enrollment data and found that 1,007 elementary school classrooms are in excess of the class size limits CPS has agreed to and 4,454 classrooms are above the class sizes Mayor Rahm Emanuel deemed appropriate for his children at the elite private school they attended.
Thirteen elementary school classrooms have over 40 students, including a kindergarten class in Englewood with an unspeakable 42 students.
Under the current teachers’ contract, CPS has agreed to voluntary limits of no more than 28 students in kindergarten through second grade and no more than 31 students in third through eighth grade. But at the elite University of Chicago Lab School, class sizes are capped at a more just and educationally sound 23 to 24 students.
“Would Rahm Emanuel or CPS Board president Frank Clark accept 40 students in their children’s classrooms?” P4T parent Catherine Henchek asked. “Of course not. But when it comes to the mostly Black and Latinx students in CPS, they just ignore these abuses.”
In fact, not too long ago, a CPS official even made the outrageous claim that if a teacher was good, 40 students in a class was just fine. A statement like that defies common sense and mountains of educational research. According to the U.S. Department of Education, reducing class size is one of only four evidence-based reforms that improves academic achievement.
But CPS continues to ignore the issue. And thanks to school closings, student-based budgeting and other disastrous policies, class size is ballooning across the district. In many other Illinois school districts, class size is capped in the educators’ collective bargaining agreement and when classes exceed the guidelines teachers can file a grievance.
In CPS, the guidelines are unenforceable and Illinois is one of just 14 states that don’t have class size limits.
That’s why the CTU is making class size a key issue in its current contract battle, which got underway last month. CPS simply can’t be trusted to do right by Chicago’s children. Parents and teachers agree: enforceable, strict class size limits need to be written into the next teachers’ contract.
To read the full P4T class size report, visit www.parents4teachers.net.
Erica Clark is a former CPS parent and co-founder of Parents 4 Teachers.