District 203’s class sizes in compliance with new board policy    

Students in class at a D203 school, one holding calculator sitting at desk
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Across all grade levels and buildings, class sizes within Naperville School District 203 this fall are within the parameters of a new board policy that stipulates a target range of 20 to 30 students, per section.

After multiple reviews and refinements, the board of education in August adopted the policy, which was created with the intent of having a basic districtwide benchmark that dually offered a degree of customized flexibility by each of the 23 buildings.

“It expresses the board’s aspirational goal to maintain a student-to-teacher ratio favorable to student educational needs,” Superintendent Dan Bridges said at an Oct. 2 meeting as he offered up a first-ever annual report on class sizes, which is one of the stipulations included in the new policy.

A big picture look at this year’s numbers

According to the report, the districtwide average enrollment in elementary grades this fall is 21.8 students. At the junior high level, where students begin selecting some of their own courses, class sizes range from 22.7 to 24.9 students. In high school, where the customization grows further, administrators indicated average class sizes are 25 students or fewer.

Since the class size report is new to the district as an outgrowth of the board policy, elected officials and administrators alike are refining processes along the way.

Board member Donna Wandke said she would prefer a presentation of the information in a different manner to get a reflection of any potential outliers, which would not be reflected in a generalized average.

“I’m thinking what would be super helpful is a scatter plot, so we could actually see where all of these class sizes are,” Wandke said. “When you give me an average of 25 (students per class), I don’t know if I have one at 15 and three at 28. That doesn’t give me a really good picture or understanding.”

Chuck Freundt, assistant superintendent for administrative services/elementary schools, confirmed all of District 203’s elementary classrooms are within or below the ceiling limit within the policy. However, he indicated there are a few outliers on the lower end.

“The exception would be in a school if we’re a little lower on space, there might be a section of 16 or 17 students,” Freundt said. “The other two sections might be 24 or 25.”

Generalizations or school-specific?

During recent deliberations, board members shared varied viewpoints on the future reporting of class size information.

Board member Melissa Kelley Black said she preferred having school-specific data presented.

“I don’t know what schools have size issues or other things,” Kelley Black said. “It would kind of be nice to just be informed of what’s going on at each school since I don’t know that.”

Board member Kristin Fitzgerald gave a different take on the issue.

“I think we just want to avoid having situations where we’re promoting a lot of comparison, because all of our schools are different, and there are a whole lot of situations where you may have a small room, where you’re doing less,” Fitzgerald said.

More updates on class sizes planned in the near future

Bridges indicated he will take the board’s feedback and confer with other members of his administrative team and make refinements as the new policy and its implementation goes through further tweaks.

“We’ll continue to work on this,” Bridges said. “I’ve often said this before, but I wish students came packaged in nice, easy bundles of 22 to make this a whole lot easier.”

While the policy remains a work in progress, Board President Kristine Gericke said she is pleased with the overall data presented.

“I don’t want to hamstring administration in making those on-the-ground decisions,” Gericke said. “There’s so many factors, especially at the high school level, that go into how that ends up at the end of the day, so I’m glad the policy and practice are in line with each other.”