This Fall, Wisconsin Students Are Heading Back to Crowded Classrooms

Thursday, August 28, 2014 at 10:37 AM by

Classroom sizes in Wisconsin have increased substantially in recent years, according to a new analysis from the Wisconsin Budget Project.   

Wisconsin still has fewer students per teacher than the national average, but our rank has been dropping. In 2004-05, Wisconsin ranked 18th among the states in the number of students per teacher. By 2011-12, Wisconsin’s ranking had dropped to 30th.

student teacher ratio                     

Wisconsin had 1.2 more students per teacher in 2011-12 than in 2004-05; nationally, schools averaged an increase of just 0.2 students per teacher of this period. Only three states  – California, Arizona, and Nevada – had larger increases in student-teacher ratios than Wisconsin over this period, according to the analysis.

One of the things making Wisconsin’s class size trend worrisome is that poverty has increased very substantially in our state over the last decade. Low-income children often need more help from their teachers, and schools can’t adequately respond to that increased need when ratio of students to teachers is growing. 

There may be more changes in the works for class sizes in Wisconsin. State lawmakers have put together a study committee that is taking a look at the way the state encourages districts to keep a lid on class sizes.  Last year, the state spent $109 million on the SAGE program, which promotes academic achievement by lowering class sizes in grades kindergarten through third grade.

Sometimes, the creation of one of these study committees is a sign that the lawmakers are planning big policy changes in the area of study. If that’s the case, lawmakers should keep in mind that classroom size in Wisconsin has already increased substantially in recent years, and we should be working to turn that trend around.

Tamarine Cornelius

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