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What Has Happened to NYC Class Sizes over the last five years and why?

What Has Happened to NYC Class Sizes over the last five years and why?

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Published by: leoniehaimson on Sep 25, 2012
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September 25, 2012
What has happened to class size in NYC schools over the last five years? 
In the Campaign for Fiscal Equity case, the state’s highest court concluded that NYC
children weredenied their constitutional right to an adequate education, in large part due to excessive class sizes.
 In 2007, this led to the passage of a state law called the Contracts for Excellence.
One of this law’s provisions requires NYC to
lower its class sizes in all grades in return for receivingadditional state funding
(ii) In a city school district in a city having a population of one million or more inhabitants such contract shall also include a plan to reduce average class sizes, as defined by the commissioner, within five years for the following grade ranges: (A) pre-kindergarten-third grade; (B) fourth-eighth grade; and (C) high school. Such plan shall include class size reduction for low performing and overcrowded schools and also include the methods to be used to achieve such class sizes, such as the creation or construction of more classrooms and school buildings, the placement of more than one teacher in a classroom or methods to otherwise reduce the 
student to teacher ratio…
In November 2007, a 5-year class reduction plan was approved by the state. This plan obligated the
city’s Department of Education to reduce class sizes to a ci
tywide average of no more than 20 studentsper class in grades K-3, 23 students per class in grades 4-8 and 25 students in high school.
Since this plan’s inception in 2007, NYC has received over $2 billion in cumulative additional
state aid.Yet class size averages have risen sharply for four years in a row at all grade levels. The early gradesare now the largest they have been in 13 years.
Campaign for Fiscal Equity, Inc., et al. v. State of New York, et al., 100 N.Y.2d 893, 911-12, 2003.
NY State Education law § 211-D Contract for Excellence, accessed at <http://law.onecle.com/new-york/education/EDN0211-D_211-D.html>.
 NY State Education Department, “
Contracts For Excellence Approved for 55 School Districts
November 19, 2007,accessed at <http://www.oms.nysed.gov/press/C4ERelease.htm>; NYC
Department of Education, “
Citywide Class Size Reduction Five-Year Plan, Five-Year Plan Executive Summary
Class Size Matters presentation,
Class size increases for fourth year in a row
,” Nov. 15, 2011
class size matters
124 Waverly Place, NY, NY 10011phone: 212- 674- 7320www.classsizematters.org email: info@classsizematters.org
More than 85% of all students in grades K-3 exceed 20 students per class, the level that the citypromised to achieve by 2011 in their Contracts for Excellence plan, 81% students in grades 4-8 exceedthe C4E goals for these grades, and 71% exceed the HS goals of 25.
Why have class sizes increased? 
In all cases, class size increases have been driven by DOE decisions and policies: 
Repeated budget cuts to NYC public schools have amounted to nearly 14% since 2007. Thesecuts took place even as state aid and overall education spending increased, thereby violating theC4E law t
hat holds that additional funding must be “used to supplement, and not supplant funds”
already allocated by the district. In this case for staffing.
A vast disinvestment in the classroom has occurred, resulting in a sharp reduction in the number of teachers. Meanwhile, thousands of out-of-classroom positions have been added.
In 2010, the city eliminated the Early Grade class size reduction program, which had been in
existence since 1999. This program was cut despite DOE’s promise to retain it in its
state-approvedC4E plan. The failure of the city to implement this program properly had been the subject of severalcritical audits, including the State Comptroller 
’s office
in 2002 and 2006, and the NYC Comptroller 
office in 2009.
We have used the Jan. 30 figures for the 2011-12 school year for grades K-8; but the Oct. 31 figures for high school, asthousands of high school students drop out between October and January. For MS and HS we have used English classes. Seecitywide distribution class size files at <http://schools.nyc.gov/AboutUs/data/classsize/classsize.htm>.
,“Lessons in Austerity: How City Principals Make Budgets Work,”
 New York Times
, August 17, 2011.
These positions included additional
 principals, secretaries, APs, literacy coaches, etc. Jennifer Medina, “With More Money,City Schools Added Jobs,”
 New York Times
, June 30, 2009.
Office of the NY State Comptroller,
 Administration And Oversight Of The Early Grade Class Size Reduction Program 2002-S-33
” September 2003
Comptroller, “
 New York City Department Of Education Administration Of The Early Grade ClassSize Reduction Program 2005-N-
3,” March 2006
Office of the NYC Comptroller, “
 Audit Report on the Department of Education’s Administration of the Early Grade Class Size Reduction Program,” 
For the city’s commitment to keep this program intact in their C4E plan, see this: “In addition, the
Department continues to be committed to reducing class size inthe early grades (i.e., grades K-3) via the Early Grade Class Size Reduction program. This is highlighted by the maintenanceof the $88 million State funded program aid this year despite the f 
unding being collapsed into general Foundation Aid.” NYCDepartment of Education, “
Citywide Class Size Reduction Five-Year Plan Five-Year Plan Executive Summary
,” November 
also Anna Phillips,
, September 9,2009; Beth Fertig,
, September 9, 2009;
Michael Scotto,
September 9, 2009; Leonie Haimson,
Class sizeaudit: another broken promi
se to our children,”
 NYC Public School Parents
, September 11, 2009.
In 2011, t
he DOE’s
decided to no longer abide by a long-standing side agreement with the UFT tocap class sizes at 28 in grades 1st-3rd. As a direct result of this decision, class sizes in thesegrades in many schools grew to levels last year 
unprecedented since the 1980’s,
with over 31,000students in 1
through 5
grade in classes of 30 students, more than tripling in number since 2008-9.
The city has allowed school overcrowding to worsen, because of rampant co-locations, rising
enrollment, and the DOE’s failure to ali
gn its capital plan with its class size reduction plan. All thesefactors have also driven up class sizes, despite specific language in the C4E law which requires
that the city’s C4E plan and its capital plan be aligned.
This fall, the DOE imposed a new policy, requiring principals to increase class sizes to maximumlevels to accommodate students with IEPs into regular classrooms. Before principals can request tocap enrollment at their schools, according to DOE
, “
all of the following conditions must be met: All GE/ICT in a given grade have reached the contractual maximum (K = 25; Grades 1-5 = 32; Grades 6-8 Title I = 30/ Non-Title I = 33)
explicit mandate that principals must increase classsizes to maximum levels to accommodate students with disabilities not only violates the
legalobligation to reduce class size, but it also contradicts considerable research showing that studentswith disabilities, whether placed in a general education, inclusion or special education setting,require especially small classes and extra support from their teachers to be successful.
From 2007 on, the DOE has failed to allocate
to class size reduction,despite the legal mandate to lower class size. In 2011, NYC received more than $500 million inC4E funds last year and yet class sizes increased.
In 2009, DOE estimated that it would cost$358.4 million to achieve the class size goals in its C4E plan on average.
The city spends nearlyone billion dollars subsidizing charter schools, and its total education budget is more than $21billion, so achieving these goals would cost less than 2% of its overall budget.
Why is class size important to NYC schools: 
The Institute of Education Sciences cites class size reduction as one of only four reforms that havebeen proven to work through rigorous evidence. Numerous studies reveal that smaller classes narrow
Office of CM Brad Lander, “
Number of Elementary School Students in Very Large Classes Has Skyrocketed Since 2008
March 2012, accessed at <http://bradlander.com/largeclasses>.
Such plan shall be aligned with the capital plan of the city school district of the city of New York and include continuousclass size reduction for low performing and overcrowded schools beginning in the 2007-2008 school year,
Department of Education , “
Special Education Reform Reference Guide: School Year 2012-13
Leonie Haimson, “
Testimony Before the City Council Education Committee on the proposal to make Kindergarten mandatory and the special education initiative
June 12, 2012, accessed at <http://goo.gl/F2dSC>.
 NYC Department of Education, “
 Response to SED C4E Class Size Questions

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