Valdosta Daily Times

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July 29, 2013

Ga. school class size increases while funding drops

ATLANTA — Public school class sizes in Georgia have increased as districts struggle with funding cuts and falling tax revenue.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Saturday that about 80 percent of Georgia’s 180 school districts approved plans to surpass class size caps last year. Districts are allowed to surpass class size caps as long as they get the decision to do so approved during a public meeting.

The newspaper reported that Georgia cut $4.7 billion in school funding from its budget between 2008 and 2012, and gave districts permission to exceed class size caps to compensate for it.

The caps were implemented before the recession to try improving student performance.

As funding for Georgia’s schools declined, the state lost about 10 percent of its educators while the state’s student population increased by about 3 percent, according to the Georgia Professional Standards Commission.

Increasing class sizes is a problem with educators trying to teach a more rigorous curriculum, said State School Superintendent John Barge.

“We have demanded so much from our teachers,” he said.

“We cannot maintain this.”

University of Georgia education professor C. Kenneth Tanner said student performance diminishes when class size increases, and overcrowded classrooms can lead to a loss of discipline and more disruptions.

“If they’re fighting, they can’t learn,” he said of students in overcrowded classrooms.

“They pester each other when they’re too close together.”

Some teachers say their class sizes have grown to the largest levels they’ve seen in decades, which makes it difficult to form personal relationships with students and conduct group discussions.

Additionally, growing class sizes can force teachers to spend extra time grading certain types of assignments or avoiding them altogether.

“The class sizes are absurdly large,” said Alyssa Montooth, an English teacher at Druid Hills High School in DeKalb County. “So (most teachers) don’t assign writing. Or if they do, they put a check mark on it, and the students don’t learn from that.”

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