In a report to the Burbank Unified School District School Board earlier this month, Dr. Tom Kissinger, the district’s Director of Elementary Education and Categorical Programs, outlined the administration’s plan to add an anticipated 21 elementary teachers over the coming six years. The hiring of additional teachers for grades K-3 will ensure the district meets the State mandate on class size reduction ahead of the 2020 deadline.
From 1996 through 2006, grades K-3 throughout the state had a 20:1 student to teacher ratio. Then the funding cuts began and class sizes ballooned. In Burbank alone during the 2009-10 school year, grades K-3 all had 30:1 class sizes. The negative effects of larger class sizes have been roundly documented and discussed, in the Burbank community and throughout the state in recent years.
“The objective is to improve reading and math skills for primary grades in smaller classes,” Kissinger said about the California Department of Education (CDE)’s effort to institute smaller class sizes statewide.
While Kissinger stresses that the numbers and needs are expected to change from year to year, due to enrollment shifts and other factors, the plan demonstrates BUSD’s commitment to meeting the State guidelines.
“The district is required to make progress every year, at every school site, to work towards the State goals,” commented Kissinger. He noted the administration will make annual adjustments to the plan for reducing the ratio of students per teacher for school years beginning in 2013-2014 and running through 2020-2021.
BUSD must show this effort annually as part of their application to the State to receive funds from the Class Size Reduction (CSR) fund through the CDE. The money received every year from the CSR/CDE funds covers the cost of hiring the additional teachers, according to Kissnger.
The State mandate says that class sizes for primary grades of Kindergarten through grade three must be at a 24:1 student to teacher ratio by the year 2020. According to BUSD’s plan, all elementary schools are anticipated to reach the 24:1 ratio by the 2019-20 school year.
Currently, in the 2013-14 school year, Kindergarten classes are at a 28:1 ratio and grades 1-3 are at a 30:1 ratio. In the coming 2014-15 school year, Kindergarten classes will be at a 26:1 ratio and first grade classes will drop to a 28:1 ratio. By 2016-17, Kindergarten classes are expected to be at the mandated 24:1 ratio. First grade is planned to be at 25:1, with second grade at 26:1 and third grade at 28 students per teacher.
Since the district has already hired two full year and one half year teachers for the 2013-14 school year, and the plan calls for an anticipated need of 23.5 teachers, BUSD can expect to hire 21 K-3 teachers in the coming years. The district is planning to have hired a net total of more than 15 additional teachers by the 2016-17 school year.
In the immediate future, BUSD is looking at possibly adding one Kindergarten to Bret Harte Elementary, one Kindergarten to Jefferson Elementary, one first grade class to Stevenson Elementary and one first grade class to McKinley Elementary, for the 2014-15 school year.