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If there are 35 students in an IB program is there a different formula that can be used to make smaller class choices?

Question#: 61

ANSWER:

The question of how schools use their allocated staffing is broader than the International Baccalaureate (IB) programming.  However, it can be demonstrated with IB as an example.  Every high school is allocated staffing to create their schedule.  Based on enrollments for classes, schools determine how to use the allocated staffing resulting in average class sizes between 25 and 26 students.  The Board of Education class size guidelines are 29 for English classes and 33 for other core content courses.  MCPS strives to minimize the number of classes that do not meet the guidelines. 

One scheduling challenge principals have is that students do not always sign up for classes in groups of 29 or 33. Therefore, schools must decide how many sections of each course to offer.  As mentioned earlier, MCPS allocates staff for average class sizes between 25 and 26. This means that each time a school decides to run two small classes, elsewhere the class size will need to be larger.  However, often schools have 34 or 35 students who sign up for an AP course or an elective.  Or, a school might have 15 students sign up for a course.  In each case, schools must decide how to use the allocated resources to support that course.  Schools decide whether to run the small enrollment courses that will result in some larger classes elsewhere.  Schools also need to decide how to staff for the 34 or 35 students who want to enroll in another course should there be 2 sections of 17 or 1 section of 34.

There is no formula for these decisions.  Schools weigh numerous factors including the content of the course, the students taking the courses, and the teachers.  For one school with a new teacher and a emerging program, the principal may choose to run the classes smaller for a year.  However, in another school that has a teacher that is experienced with the content and students that the staff feel are well prepared, the school may run the course with a larger class.  For a course where more engagement is required, a school may run the courses with smaller classes, while for another course where students spend lots of time working in small groups a school may run the course with a larger classes.  All of this needs to be decided within the boundaries of the total staffing allocation.  Central office staff works closely with schools to support them with these decisions.  When enrollment numbers dictate that the schedule cannot be created without additional staffing, the schedule is reviewed and additional staffing is allocated. 

In the case of schools running an IB program, the situation is as outlined above.  Schools with an IB program have students who participate in the full program, as well as other students who may take IB courses but do not participate in the full program.  The IB diploma students (full program with required courses for students) and the IB certificate students (students who take courses but are not participating in the program) take courses together.  Based on the number of students that have signed up for each course, the school determines how many sections to offer.  It is important to note that the situation of how many sections to offer is not limited to the scenario of 34 or 35 students.  When 67 or 68 students sign up for a course, schools must make the same decision.  The only way to avoid oversized classes would be to decide that each time there is a large class the allocation should include an additional .2 teacher position.  When looking at the FY 2014 budget, this would mean allocating four hundred twenty-eight .2 teacher positions or 85.6 FTE teacher positions at a cost of $5,602,388, including employee benefits.  

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