By Meseret Carver,
The start of the school has been marked by another increase in class sizes compared to last year. As a result, AP Government teacher Peter Reilly worries that large classes will prevent him from building relationships with his students.
“I try to talk to every single kid, every single day, in every single one of my classes,” Reilly said. “It’s really challenging to do that with 32 kids.”
This year, Reilly’s classes have over 32 kids per class and overall he is 21 students over his contract. Reilly’s goal is to enhance the learning experience for students by making sure that every student feels connected to the class or to him in some way.
According to Reilly, every kid brings a backpack from home and nobody knows what is in the backpack. It is his job to make sure that the emotions, hardships and complications that the student brings from home do not restrain the student from reaching his/her academic potential. And teaching classes that spill over the top makes that job harder.
On the first day of school, Reilly’s class had so many students that some had to sit on the floor or in chairs without a desk. Senior Jackson Looney had a seat but if he were in that situation, he would not have been happy.
“I would feel like I had been cheated out of something,” Looney said. “I signed up for this class, I deserve a seat.”
Although Reilly’s request for more desks was granted, he does not feel that that solves the greater issue.
Reilly’s goal aligns with one of the improvements that the 2016 Western Association of School and Colleges (WASC) report set for Davis High. According to the report, a third of DHS students feel disconnected with the school.
“You’re just putting a bandaid on the problem [by providing more desks], you’re not really addressing the issue,” Reilly said.
The report, first, singles out English teachers stating that increased size class sizes makes it difficult to “assign and assess eight full essays a year, as has been done previously.” However, the report goes on to say that the increased classes also add to a teacher’s workload and prevent the teacher from adjusting the curriculum to meet new standards, when necessary, and this is an issue that “pervades all departments.”
According to head counselor Courtenay Tessler, every year there is a long list of teachers who are over contracted and every year it shrinks over the first few weeks of school. As of now, four teachers are teaching over 10 students more than what their contract calls for.
This year, there was a large amount of seniors that were not expected and because Government and Economics are required classes, they are more likely to have classes over the cap, 32.
With regard to student connection, Tessler agrees that it is an issue but states that the school does not have enough funding to create new classes and address that issue. According to Tessler, the school “endeavors” to address the issues presented in the WASC report but the reality is there is not enough money to do it.
“You can’t make it work all the time for everybody. It’s just not possible,” Tessler said.
On Sept. 14, the counseling office will draw a list of teachers that are over contracted. These teachers will then meet with the principal and negotiate compensation for extra students. But that is little comfort to Reilly.