Small classes add up to big gains for Ranch School students and teachers


The school year is off to a great start at R. Roger Rowe, the Ranch School. The children are reaping the benefits of our new state-of-the-art school, with class sizes of 20 and fewer students, well below the average class size for California schools.

“Small classes are more engaging places for students because they’re able to have a more personal connection with teachers, simply by virtue of the fact that there are fewer kids in the classroom competing for that teacher’s attention,” says Adam Gamoran of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, as quoted in USA Today.

Pamela Dirkes, co-chair of the RSF Education Foundation agrees. As a former teacher in the Carlsbad school system, she knows from firsthand experience. “With 32 plus kids in a class, often times you don’t even speak to them individually,” Dirkes said. “I was with these kids for six hours a day and some of them didn’t even get any 1-on-1 attention from me. I felt like there was never enough of me to go around to all of my students.”

Small class size, one of the most impactful elements of the Ranch School, is generously funded by parents and the community through the RSF Education Foundation. Fewer students in the class room not only enriches the experience for the students, but also for the teachers. Superintendent Lindy Delaney acknowledges small class size is one of the many reasons top teachers are attracted to the Ranch School. “I’m thrilled to be at R. Roger Rowe”, says elementary school teacher Amanda Valentine. Valentine came from a district where she juggled the needs of 34 students in a fifth grade class. “A class size of that magnitude is not only difficult to manage, but there is a greater opportunity for students to slip through the cracks,” she explained.

As districts around the country struggle financially, upward pressure on class size has increased. As published in the Wall Street Journal, “More than three in five U.S. school districts are planning to increase class sizes in the 2010-2011 school year, up from less than one in 10 in 2008-2009.”

Fortunately for our students, the RSF Education Foundation is here to help. This year, the RSF Education Foundation will once again fund the Five-Star Education Program allowing the Ranch School to continue to achieve its goal of keeping class sizes small-20 or fewer students in each class. (The school’s actual average class size has been 17 students per class.) Without the funds provided through the Education Foundation, the school’s average class size would be 32 students per class.

This year’s grant to the district is $1,000,000, 40 percent of which is earmarked to maintain smaller classes. This grant of $1,000,000 when divided by 680 students equals $1470 per student. This “fair share” is the amount the RSF Education Foundation needs to raise on behalf of each student to fund this grant. Accordingly, parents are being asked to contribute to the best of their ability, keeping in mind their ‘fair share’ for each student in their family. The Foundation recognizes that some families may not be able to contribute this amount and greatly appreciates the generosity of those who go beyond their “fair share.” “Every child at the ranch school receives a Five-Star Education but it takes the support of all parents to make it happen,” says co-chair Bill Gaylord.

— RSF Education Foundation