At the Thursday, June 28, BOE meeting, parents expressed their thoughts about the classroom sizes at Tatem Elementary School.
At the Thursday, June 28, BOE meeting, parents expressed their thoughts about the classroom sizes at Tatem Elementary School. The current board policy on class size allows up to 25 students, kindergarten through third grade, and up to 27 students in grades four through five.
Resident Amy Adams spoke during public comment to share her concerns with the board. As a parent with two children at Tatem and a teacher with 21 years of experience, Adams stood with other parents to ask for change and to amend the policy on classroom size.
“As you have just heard, we are petitioning for a policy change regarding class size,” Adams said to the board. “While policy change takes time, there is an immediate need at Tatem elementary school.”
Adams said if a policy change does not occur, in September, fourth-grade classes will have at least 25 students per class.
“We are asking you as concerned residents, voters and parents to find a way to add an additional section of fourth grade and first grade to reduce class sizes for Tatem Elementary School for September of 2018,” Adams said.
Academic research demonstrates students in smaller classrooms have better grades, test scores and attendance, and fewer behavioral issues, according to Adams. She said one study shows these benefits trickle into adulthood and college.
During Adams’ experience as a teacher, she said she has averaged under 20 students, which allowed her to meet the individual needs of her students, due to smaller and fewer groups.
“Please address the class size issue so that our teachers can be effective and our children can be successful,” Adam’s said.
Board Member Glenn Moramarco said he wanted to clarify a few of the studies being cited.
“I do have to disagree with some of the popular conceptions out there about what the studies show,” Moramarco said.
Moramarco said one of the studies was looking at minority students in the inner city schools in regard to class size and one study in particular was based on moving class sizes to 15 students.
“That study doesn’t really translate to our population,” Moramarco said.
Moramarco also said another variable to consider is that due to the “way students are taught” in suburban districts, class size tends to matter less when you get more toward fourth and fifth grade.
Some residents encouraged the board to consider all taxpayers when making decisions to add more teachers or aids, including lifelong resident and former board of education member Kathleen Freeman.
“I want to speak and represent the two-thirds of this town that don’t have children currently in public schools,” Freeman said. “I would like you to be fiscally responsible.”
Freeman said Haddonfield students have always done well, despite higher classroom sizes. As a previous board member, Freeman said she has seen higher numbers before. Although she understands class size is important to parents, the prediction of a child’s success educationally will not be based off of their elementary class size. With a 30-year span of teaching college education, Freeman said other variables predict a child’s success.
“The predictors of academic success are more like socio-economic status, the education of the parents and how much parents interact with their child,” Freeman said. “I had 52 children in my kindergarten class at Christ the King, and many of us went to Ivy League schools … one teacher, no aid.”
Freeman said she hopes the board will think in terms of the whole town moving forward, not just some of the parents with kids at Tatem.
The next board meeting will take place on July 26.