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CHICAGO— A Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) analysis of Illinois average classroom sizes showed early grade classrooms in the city are larger than those in 95 percent of the districts in the rest of the state.  The analysis, using Illinois State Board of Education data, found that classrooms in Chicago’s public high schools have the fifth highest class size compared to other districts in Illinois. Download the ISBE class size data comparison spreadsheet.

The CTU analysis also found:

  • Out of the 480 Illinois school districts with high schools, Chicago has the fifth largest average high-school class size. The only districts with larger average high school class sizes are in Woodstock, Pikeland, Havana and Oaklawn.
  • Chicago’s average class sizes at the early childhood grades (k-1) are larger than 95 percent of all Illinois school districts.
  • Upon average across all elementary grades, Chicago has the 14th highest class size averaged across the elementary grades (k-8).

“Reducing class sizes can lead to improved teaching and learning,” said CTU President Karen GJ Lewis. “In a smaller classroom, a teacher has more time to get to know each student’s academic strengths and weaknesses; students receive more attention and teachers can spend more time helping students learn and working with parents.”

Tennessee’s Project STAR (Student Teacher Achievement Ratio) found that smaller class sizes had positive effects at every grade level across all school locations (rural, urban, inner city, suburban), on every achievement measure and for all subjects (reading, mathematics, science, social science, language, study skills).

The study also found that students assigned to small classes of 15 students  in early grades graduated on schedule at a higher rate (76 %) than students from regular classes  of 24 (64%).  The same students also completed school with an honors diploma more often than students from regular classes and dropped out of school less often (15 %) compared to the regular classes (24%).

Recently, parents have contacted CTU about concerns about class size. Until early October one third grade classroom at Cassell Elementary, 11314 S. Spaulding, had 42 students in a single class. The matter was resolved internally when the administration and teachers agreed to develop a second/third grade split class. Chicago is the only district whose union is not allowed to bargain over class size. The 1995 School Reform Act included a list of topics that were either prohibited or permissive of bargaining, meaning the Union can bargain over the impact of class size but the not actual class size.

“We know from studies and teacher experience that particularly at the lower grade level, students in smaller classes get off to a better start in their schooling because the teacher is able to modify her instruction to meet the needs of individual children and better communicate with their parents,” said CTU researcher Carol Caref.