Key Facts about Class Sizes
• Monitoring class sizes occurs throughout the year.
The Board of Education and administration regularly monitor class sizes, but especially during the spring and summer as projections are revised to become actual numbers. Updated enrollment reports are presented to the Board of Education in conjunction with its second or only meeting most months from December through September (except October and November), and are publicly available in the column at right on this Webpage.The process begins in August and September when Illinois state law requires official enrollment reports on the first, the sixth and the 30th day of school.
In December, the Board of Education begins receiving preliminary enrollment projections for the upcoming school year. State law then requires every Illinois school district to make most staffing decisions for the following year in March, based on budget and enrollment projections. In the spring when the formal registration process begins, current student numbers are “rolled up” into the next grade level to begin projecting those class sizes. It is not until late summer that class sizes in all grade levels are better known as projections become actual numbers and student registrations are confirmed.
• Enrollment declines sometimes mean reducing staff.In Barrington 220, staffing levels are adjusted every year based on enrollment projections, even in years when large program expenditures or budget changes are not under consideration. The administration annually modifies staffing levels because Barrington 220’s elementary school population has declined 12-percent since 2007-08, which equates to approximately 475 less students. In a fiscally responsible approach, fewer students require fewer teachers. Staffing reductions may also be linked to a decreasing Consumer Price Index, losses in state funding, facility needs or other related financial and enrollment factors.
• Enrollment projections fluctuate until late summer.
After May 1 when registration begins, families move in unexpectedly, other families relocate out of the area, students may transfer between buildings based on their new address. Also, not until late May does the school district finalize school and classroom placements in the upcoming school year for students in the extended (i.e. gifted) and special education programs.
These are some of the many scenarios that typically occur. In fact, special programs and transfers sometimes can help maintain other class sizes within guidelines. As a result, it isn’t until late summer that enrollments begin to crystallize, staffing needs are better known and projections become actual numbers. Adjusting teacher assignments and class sections before these variables are better known would be premature.
• Illinois law does not define reasonable class sizes.Although the instructional benefits of smaller class sizes are generally acknowledged, Illinois is one of 11 states that do not limit the number of students in a regular education classroom through the school code.
• Barrington 220 has its own class-size guidelines.
Taking into account various conditions and enrollments from year to year, Board of Education Policy 6:202 establishes a general guideline or goal of 21 to 23 students in a grade K-2 classroom, 23 to 25 students in a grade 3 classroom, and 25 to 27 students in a grade 4-5 classroom. The administration has also developed an informal guideline of 24 to 26 students in K-5 Chinese Immersion (CI) and Spanish Dual Language classes (SDL).
This has been done because, in both programs, students cannot enroll in the later years and there is also some allowance for attrition.
These longstanding guidelines are unique to Barrington 220, although the ranges are comparable to those used by surrounding districts. According to the Board policy, “When class size exceeds the recommended ranges, consideration will be given to reallocating aide time within a building, providing additional aide time to the building, providing an additional section or creating a combination class.”
• Elementary, middle and high school class sizes vary.Projecting average class sizes at the secondary level (middle and high school) is more challenging than the elementary grades. In grades 6-12, there are wide variety, configurations and choices of core and elective classes in a given day, specific teacher certifications required to teach those classes, as well as course registration and scheduling timelines. Unlike elementary registrations, middle and high school students frequently add or drop courses during specified periods, so class sizes in the secondary grades often fluctuate depending on the time of year.
• Class-size guidelines differ from a class-size cap
Guidelines are agreed-upon general parameters the Board of Education follows to balance class sizes, staffing, instructional and budgetary needs. A cap – which Barrington 220 does not use – would be the maximum number of students allowed in a classroom before taking specific measures to reduce a class size.
For example: two second-grade classes in one building are filled with resident students, and the class sizes are capped at the present top of the guideline: 23 and 23. If one more student in that grade level moves into the school’s attendance area, the cap would be exceeded. One of two scenarios would need to occur at that point: (1) the last student to enroll would be required to attend another school where class sizes are below the cap; or (2) a new classroom, or section, would automatically be added, which would create three sections at 16, 16, 15. That would, of course, require another teacher and another classroom.
While space might exist to add sections and teachers at times in certain buildings, it would not consistently be an option without transferring some resident students to another building, creating grade-level centers or adding mobile classrooms.
• Imposing a class-size cap would increase costs.While a class-size cap would result in smaller class sizes, the financial impact would be significant. In the previous example, the additional student would increase staffing costs by 50-percent. Multiply this several times across the district and the implications of a class-size cap policy become evident. In addition, if such a strict rule were enforced, sections would not likely be finalized until early August, placing families on an emotional roller coaster as they wait to learn which school their child might attend in the upcoming year. General guidelines on class sizes impose fewer budgetary restrictions and allow more flexibility when assigning staff.
• Students still enroll even if classes exceed guidelines.
When students move from outside the district into a school attendance area, when they move from one attendance area to another, or when they exit a district-wide program, it is the district’s policy and guideline to allow them to attend the school in their home attendance area. When special-needs students qualify for a specific program at another school, it is the student’s right and the district’s legal responsibility to ensure participation in the program even if it is housed in a different school.
• Class sizes vary according to programs and schools.Chinese Immersion and Dual Language class sizes may exceed guidelines to allow for normal attrition. In this way, these programs also indirectly help manage general education class sizes as long as families continue to enroll their students.Class sizes at Sunny Hill Elementary may be lower than Board of Education guidelines because Federal law requires a smaller student-to-teacher ratio when a large percentage of children in a grade level are English Language Learners (ELL).
• A contingency exists to add staff as needed.
When enrollment projections become actual class sizes in late summer, and if the Board of Education confirms a class will likely be significantly and consistently above guidelines, the administration has permission to consider hiring additional teachers. This “contingency” helps maintain optimal class sizes in every grade level in every school as much as is reasonably possible and cost effective – even up to the last minute.
The amount of contingency - which may change each year depending on finances - is built into the staffing budget for both certified teachers and teacher aides if projections prove accurate and some class sizes exceed the guidelines. However, assigning additional staff too early is less prudent than waiting until certain which school students will actually attend.
• Special education students do count in class sizes.Barrington 220’s enrollment projections include students by homeroom section who also participate in “self-contained” special services programs at most schools. State law mandates these programs to meet the specific educational needs of qualifying students. Children in these programs participate to varying degrees in the regular classroom as determined by their Individualized Education Plan (IEP). The number of students at each grade level in these programs is always noted on the enrollment report.Although students who receive special services typically join the regular education classroom up to 40-percent of the day, they are not included in the base enrollment number for each classroom but rather are represented in the “SE+” column, which reflects the total possible class size. As a student’s needs change, the amount of time he or she participates in the regular education classroom also changes. This may happen at any time during the school year as determined by the IEP. Based on the child’s needs, a classroom-teaching assistant or another teacher may occasionally accompany the child during these regular education times and, if so, may also support the instruction of other students while briefly in the classroom.
• Other students also come and go from classrooms.
Other students also move in and out of a classroom during the course of a typical day – causing elementary class sizes to decrease or increase – such as those in band and orchestra, extended (i.e. gifted) education, Resource to Intervention (RtI) plans, and flexible grouping for individualized instruction.
• Students may enroll outside their home-school area.At various schools, there may be some students who live outside the school’s attendance area but have petitioned to transfer to that particular school. Transfer requests are completed prior to the start of each school year. At that time, projected enrollments are taken into account when considering a transfer request. These requests are submitted, reviewed and either approved or denied on a once-yearly basis depending on the availability of space (i.e. class sizes) in the requested grade level.When parents are notified a transfer has been granted, they are also notified they must reapply for the transfer every school year – which may be approved or denied depending on class sizes. Barrington 220 must also offer school choice based on the requirements of the Federal “No Child Left Behind” Act, which is different from the annual transfer process. Choice may be available on a yearly basis to students who presently attend any Barrington 220 school that has not achieved Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), as defined by the law.