By the Rancho Santa Fe Education Foundation
Class sizes throughout California are increasing. They are routinely in the 24-25+ range for K-3 and in many districts climbing to 35-40+ in higher grades. However students at R. Roger Rowe School enjoy average class sizes of 18 students in K-8. Even in wealthy towns like Los Altos in Northern California, K-3 class sizes have increased to 25 students and classes such as PE and computers are taught by the grade level teachers despite the assistance of their Education Foundation. In Carlsbad, district superintendent John A. Roach wrote to parents this past spring indicating that he would need to “increase class size from the current average of 20-24 to as many as 32 students per class in grades 1-3.”
His letter goes on to note: “Many kindergartens, which share teachers, have as many as 30 or more students per class. The majority of 4th and 5th grades average more than 30 students per class; 6th-8th grade classes, around 30.” Students at the Ranch School are more than fortunate.
This year the RSF Education Foundation (RSFEF) has pledged $1M to ensure that students retain this amazing benefit. But there is no guarantee that this benefit will continue without the contributions of all Ranch School families to the RSFEF. “School revenue from property taxes has declined by over a half million dollars in the past three years, and funding from all public sources has declined by over $1.1M during the same period. In response, the school has had to reduce its budget by over $1.4M this year alone when compared to last year. The school desperately needs everyone to contribute to maintain these class sizes,” urged Kimberly King, vice chair and former treasurer of the RSFEF. “The majority of the grant from the Foundation is used to pay for teachers.”
Ranch School students are getting more valuable one-on-one attention from teachers, leading to higher academic performance.
“The biggest advantage of a small class is a lot more individualized attention for the students,” noted Megan Yuhas, a fifth-grade teacher at the Ranch School. “I student taught in classes with 25-28 students. You can’t give the students individualized attention with that many students.”
Lori Edwards, a middle school math teacher at the Ranch School, said “A parent here can be happy to know that I know their students. I have the time to do that. I can say with confidence that I know every single student.” She previously taught in Poway at Oak Valley and Mesa Verde and had classes with as many as 36 students. This year she knows of science classes with 42-44 students and math with 39-40 there. “I can be more flexible with smaller classes. Just handing out a worksheet to 35 students can take a lot of class time.”
RC Haus recently joined the Ranch School from the San Diego schools. He teaches music and literacy. “Teachers don’t like to admit this,” he said, “because we are very intent that we are going to reach everyone; but with that many kids, someone will be neglected. Do we turn all our attention on the struggling, lower-end students and forsake our high-performing students; or do we focus on the excelling students and leave the other end in confusion? The biggest challenge is to be able to really learn why they are struggling and how to meet that need.” Lori Edwards adds, “With that many kids (35), people fall through the cracks. Here, if someone’s struggling we all know and can help them.”
Small class size attracts high caliber teachers to the Ranch School. They can more effectively teach and manage their classes. “Classroom management is tough with a large class. With a class of 35 there will no doubt be four or five behavioral challenges that will have a negative impact on the class,” commented Lori Edwards. Megan Yuhas agreed that “while class management is possible with more kids, the kids are on task more often when they are in a small group.” Another advantage of small class sizes she added is “the kids look out for one another. The students feel there are only 18 of us so we’re a team.” These teachers are thrilled to be teaching at the Ranch School. “I love it here so much,” remarked Lori Edwards. You can hear the enthusiasm in her voice.
Small class sizes have resulted in increasingly strong test scores for the students at the Ranch School. Last year CA standardized test scores increased in English Language Arts from 89% to 91.6% Proficient or Advanced and in Mathematics from 83% to 91% Proficient or Advanced. This is further evidence of the value of small classes.
To help retain great teachers like Lori Edwards, RC Haus, and Megan Yuhas and keep class sizes small as part of the Five-Star Education Program, the RSFEF needs to raise the $1M it has pledged to the Ranch School. Of the funds raised for the school, 40% are earmarked for small class size; 20% for specialized teachers; 15% for literacy excellence; 15% for integrated science and 10% for differentiated mathematics.
The RSFEF is asking that each family contribute their “Fair Share” cost per child of $1,497 ($1M divided by 668 students) or to the best of their ability. Families that contribute at the higher Cap & Gown and Scholars’ Circle levels receive special recognition. All contributions are tax-deductible.
Please help the Ranch School retain great teachers and keep class sizes small. Contribute to the RSFEF by Friday, Sept. 30 — Red Envelope Day. 100% participation among school families is necessary to maintain this world-class education in the current climate of cuts to state and local education funding. Community and corporate donations are also encouraged. For questions or more information please go to www.rsfef.org or contact the Education Foundation at 858-756-1141 x208. The difference is you!
— Submitted by the