School book and apple

The average class size for most grades in Madison Metropolitan School District elementary schools increased this fall from last year.

According to a report from the district’s Research and Program Evaluation Office published last month, fewer classrooms are below the minimum threshold but more are above the maximum.

The School Board approved a new class size policy in 2017 that sets minimum and maximum class sizes for various grades and class subjects. The requirements vary for elementary schools that are part of the Achievement Gap Reduction program up to third grade — which must follow specific rules for instructional coaching, one-on-one tutoring and professional development — and those that are not.

The minimum for any class in the district is supposed to be 15. Maximums vary: grades K-1 are 20 for AGR and 23 for non-AGR; grades 2-3 are 20 and 27, respectively. The AGR program ends after third grade, and maximums for the rest are 28 for grades 4-5 and 30 for middle and high school.

At non-AGR schools, the average class size grew for each grade, K-5, though only by 0.1 students in fifth grade. The largest increases were at third grade, at 20 in 2018 and 22.2 in 2019, and second grade and fourth grade, which each had an increase of 1.4 in average class size.

Just four classes total were above the maximum or below the minimum at those schools, down from 19 last year — of which 17 were below the minimum.

AGR schools also generally saw increases at each grade level, though the average size dropped for grades 2/3 combined classes, from 17 to 16. The biggest increases were at kindergarten, from 14.9 to 16.8, and grades 4/5 combined classes, from 19.2 to 21.7.

Last year, just one class was above the maximum at AGR schools. This year that’s up to 11. On the other end, 56 classes are below the minimum this year, down from 89 last year.

At the middle and high school levels, class sizes are measured by subject, with up to 30 for core subjects and 40 for special subjects like art and music.

Average class sizes for most subject areas decreased for middle school, with English Language Arts, math, science and social sciences all among those that dropped. Average class size stayed about the same for most high school subject areas.

In middle schools, 107 classes were below the minimum 15 students — with World Languages as the most common culprit with 26 instances. 

At the high school level, 191 classes were below 15, with 47 of those in math. That's not unusual in that subject, as there are more advanced classes that fewer students reach or choose to take.

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Scott Girard is the local k-12 education reporter at the Cap Times. A Madison native, he joined the paper in 2019 after working for six years for Unified Newspaper Group. Follow him on Twitter @sgirard9.