Understanding Classroom Ratios
The debate regarding the effect of classroom ratios is one that is ongoing and likely not one that will ever truly have a resolution. Often time, the conversation around classroom management is linked back to classroom ratios. While it is certainly true regardless that lower ratios allow for more student interaction from a teacher, it is not known as to whether students within a well-managed classroom realize they are getting less time because the time is more effective.
If you were to simply ask “What is your student/teacher ratio?” the answer you receive will not likely be an apples to apples comparison across the board. While the “technical” definition of student/teacher ratio is the number of students in a classroom as compared to the number of highly qualified teachers, the applied definition is often different. The most frequent practice that can affect this definition and reported number is the use of paraprofessionals within a classroom. This is “technically” an adult/student ratio but if used within an effective system, can yield great results.
As a parent, the questions you must ask yourself are:
- Does the number of students within a classroom affect my child? If your child struggles with crowds, noisy environments or craves very managed social interaction, the size of the classroom may become more important than the ratios. Often times, classrooms may be large in size (up to 30-40 students) but there are several adults within the classroom bringing the ratios to even a 1:15 which is impressive. In this case, it is not the ratio that is important however because of the environment. Ensure you understand the environment that your child will learn in before making your choice.
- What is the level of interaction from the teacher does my child need? If your child is one that is self-driven and an independent worker, they may appreciate being part of a larger class that isn’t focused on equal time for all students. On the other hand, if your child desires very hands-on instruction and guidance, classroom ratios become an important aspect in your decision. The key question to ask to assess this environment is around how assessments are used to determine the level of interaction your child will need. How will a teacher know when your child needs more or less rigorous curriculum? How will a teacher know if your child is facing other non-educational challenges? Effective classroom management can diminish the debate on ratios if proper systems are in place to not let any student slip through the cracks.