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Oversize classes down, thanks to new procedures in teachers' contract

New York Teacher

A new procedure negotiated by the United Federation of Teachers has led to a dramatic decrease in the number of oversize classes in the schools, the UFT announced today.

At the usual annual benchmark – day 10 of the new school year – there were 350 schools with a total of 1,570 oversize classes, down from more than 400 schools and more than 2,000 oversize classes at that same time last year. But in addition, thanks to a new procedure that empowered local superintendents working with UFT district representatives to intervene, by the middle of October 70 percent of the schools with oversize classes had eliminated them. As of day 21 of the new school year, 105 schools had oversize classes.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew said: "Under the old system, the union would have to rely on contract arbitration for the hundreds of schools that were out of compliance. The result was that students could sit in oversize classes for most or even all of the year. But the new administration agreed with us that delaying class size enforcement hurts both students and teachers. The new agreement has meant that we will now have to go to arbitration on fewer than one hundred schools – and that number drops every day.”

“Thanks to our new rules, far fewer kids are finding themselves in overcrowded classrooms, and those that are getting relief sooner," Mr. Mulgrew added.

The only rules that limit class size in New York City schools are those established in the UFT contract, making them enforceable through a process of hearings before independent third-party arbitrators who can order the principals to comply. But because of limits on hearing days, the process could take months, leaving classes oversize that entire time.

Under the new contract procedures negotiated in the 2018 agreement, principals have 10 days after school starts to reduce oversize classes to the contract limits. If they fail to do so, the cases are referred to local superintendents, who can intervene to make sure principals bring the class sizes into line.

Class size limits established by the UFT contract are: pre-kindergarten,18 students with a teacher and a paraprofessional; kindergarten, 25 students; grades 1-6 in elementary schools, generally 32 students; middle school, 30-33 students; high school academic subjects, 34 students; high school physical education/gym 50 students.

When space or other issues prevent schools from lowering the number of students in a classroom, the school may come into compliance by taking other steps, including providing either a second teacher or a paraprofessional to the class.

Related Topics: Class Size, News Stories