Prince William school board considers class size reduction plan

Prince William County school officials have proposed funding extra teachers’ positions in kindergarten, sixth grade and ninth grade next year to begin reducing class sizes that have reached state limits.

Superintendent Steven Walts, who presented the plan to school board members Tuesday, suggested reducing the maximum class size in kindergarten from 28 to 27, and adding an additional teacher at each middle school for sixth graders and an extra math teacher at each high school for ninth graders.

He also proposed funding instructional coaches at those schools to help improve the skills of all teachers.

“It is the quality of the teaching that is, according to research, the single most important aspect to having a quality education,” he said. “To simply reduce class size in and of itself will not necessarily yield a positive achievement result.”

The plan would add 43 teachers and cost $3.5 million.

At a meeting between the school board and county supervisors this fall, officials agreed to develop a plan for rolling back class sizes after many consecutive years of increases. It's an expensive undertaking: School officials estimate it would cost $15 million to decrease class size by one student system wide. System administrators are hoping to focus their investment in key transitional years for students.

The boards are planning another joint meeting Nov. 26 to discuss class size.

Michael Alison Chandler writes about schools and families in the Washington region.
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