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Hundreds of thousands of children stuck in oversize classes in city schools

More than 6,000 oversize classes found; Queens high schools hardest hit
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14-year high in average class sizes in grades 1–3

A United Federation of Teachers survey has shown that more than 230,000 students — the equivalent of almost a quarter of the entire school system — spent part or all of their first few weeks of school in overcrowded classes.

According to grievances filed by chapter leaders in schools throughout the city, there were 6,313 overcrowded classes, up from 6,133 last year. More than 1,000 of those oversize classes were found in Queens high schools alone.

Meanwhile, although the citywide average for grades 1–3 remains below contractual limits, overall average class sizes in the early grades have now reached a 14-year high — more than 24 in grades 1 and 2 and more than 25 in grade 3, the highest point since fiscal 1999.

Nearly 400 oversize classes at Cardozo

Among the high schools with the most oversize classes: Cardozo in Queens with 385 oversize classes; Hillcrest, also in Queens, with 400 oversize classes; Truman in the Bronx with 173; James Madison in Brooklyn with 167; Curtis on Staten Island with 113; and Graphics in Manhattan with 63.

Middle and elementary schools suffering from oversize classes include: PS 105 in Brooklyn with 23; IS 145 in Queens with 29; MS 499 in Manhattan with 20, IS 27 on Staten Island with 17; and PS 87 in the Bronx with 13.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew said:  “Twelve years of Michael Bloomberg, and hundreds of thousands of students start the school year in oversize classes — while many of them will stay in oversize classes for weeks or months.  At the same time citywide averages for classes in 1st, 2nd and 3rd grade are at the highest they have been in 14 years. It is time to take this issue seriously. All our students, especially our youngest children, desperately need smaller class sizes. And in any school where the administration knows it is under a mandate to reduce class sizes to the contractual limit, there is no excuse for letting students stay in an oversize class through Thanksgiving or even the new year.”

Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer said, “We need to stop playing games with our kids’ future and start getting serious about overcrowding in our city’s classrooms — a chronic issue that this Department of Education has ignored for too long, at the expense of hundreds of thousands of city school children.  Investing in new schools and classrooms will require shared sacrifice and the sustained commitment of all New Yorkers. But doing nothing is not an option — not when the cost will be measured in lost learning and squandered opportunity for our children.”

Class size limits according to the UFT contract:

  • Pre-Kindergarten: 18 students with a teacher and a paraprofessional;
  • Kindergarten: 25 students;
  • Grades 1-6 (in elementary schools): 32 students;
  • JHS/MS: 33 students in non-Title I schools; 30 in Title I schools;
  • High school: 34 students; 50 in physical education/gym.

Responsible administrators bring their class sizes into line without forcing the issue to arbitration. But every year the UFT is forced to arbitrate oversize classes involving thousands of students. The process can take weeks or even months, leaving students in oversize classes for extended periods.

The estimated total of more than 230,000 students spending part or all of their day in overcrowded classes is based on an assumption that the average number of students in oversize classes in the high schools is 38, and the average for K–8 classes is 34.

The oversize class grievances are based on school registers for the start of the third week of the current school year.

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