Have you ever been to a birthday party with more than fifteen kids? If so, you’re probably familiar with the laughter, and screaming, and children at play, as parents keep a watchful eye on their child in a large space. Now imagine an enclosed classroom where the number is closer to twenty-five children with generally one adult, all together in a room intended to hold eighteen. The single adult is trying to focus the students’ attention on subjects and material, and the students begin acting out because they do not want to participate in yet another math talk or gallery walk. Not only does this daily scenario pose safety issues, but it also prohibits our children from performing to their truest potential.
Mr. Eric Grob, a School Safety Specialist points out that there are many safety risks that come with larger class sizes. The biggest safety concern from his point of view is that of capacity. Many of these rooms were built for fifteen students. According to Mr. Grob, if the school exceeds the limits set forth by the Fire and Building Code laws, “The ability to properly evacuate the students and/or personnel could result in serious bodily harm and/or death…the personnel in charge of the school could be criminally charged with being culpable of the death or injury of said party…additionally, the school district and board would be legally responsible for the malfeasance.” Having too many bodies in the room would also endanger the students and personnel by making it physically impossible to hide in a “safe corner” should there be an active shooter or unauthorized person in the school. In addition to not being able to fit in a safe area, the teacher or adult overseeing the students would have no way of keeping an accurate headcount of the students in the room.
In addition to all of the safety risks, the learning environment for the students is greatly altered by having class sizes of more than twenty. According to one sixth-grade student, “class sizes should be fifteen because if it’s a high number like twenty-four, there’re more distractions which makes it harder to learn.” This student also expressed that when you have many students in a class, there’s going to be an increase in arguments which can lead to physical fights. Even the perfect student would not feel safe, comfortable, or able to learn in an environment like that. Kim, an eighth-grade student stated, “[class sizes] should be twenty or less students because if there’s a small classroom, there’s not enough room to move around for centers or for more engaging learning.” Students want the opportunity to move and experience hands-on learning. They want their education to be meaningful and relevant. When there are more than twenty students in the classroom, meaningful, memorable, and relevant learning becomes impossible.
Let’s face the fact, class size matters to every person regardless of the role they play.