A proposal by Alexandria School Superintendent Robert W. Peebles to increase student-pupil ratios for grades 4 through 6 brought objections last week from school board members, who wanted the proposal studied further.
Peebles, in referring to budget planning guidelines board members received earlier this month, noted that the guidelines called for increasing the student-pupil ratio in grades 4 through 6 from 24-1 to 25-1. No change was recommended for grades K through 3, where the ratio is 24-1.
"We felt a need for this slight shift at a time when we will be very hard-pressed in this year's budget planning process," Peebles told the board. "We feel this shift is reasonable and not detrimental to what I feel is a good class size in the system."
In arguing for the change, Peebles cited statistics showing that 14 percent of the students in grades 4-6 are in the system's gifted and talented program, taking them out of the home classroom a significant part of the day and thus making class sizes more manageable.
However, school board Chairman Shirley N. Tyler and other board members expressed concern about changing the ratio without further study.
"I would like to see an analysis of the gifted program," said Tyler. "Until we get that and until I know what direction we are going, I would not want to make a decision on class size."
Added board Vice Chairman Claudia C. Waller: "I am concerned why they are recommending an increase in class size. It's not a question of class size but educational philosophy and this needs scrutiny before we make any change."
The board decided to discuss the issue in detail at its December meeting.
In other business last week, the superintendent once again focused on college entrance exam scores taken last spring by graduating seniors.
Peebles released more detailed information about the SAT results, pointing to what he said were some positive aspects, despite a 23-point drop in overall scores from the year before.
"The public pays a great deal of attention to the SAT scores," Peebles said before enumerating what he termed some "interesting" aspects of the results.
Peebles led off by reminding board members that Alexandria students scored higher than state, regional and national norms on both the verbal and math sections of the SAT.
"Also, 7 percent of Alexandria students who took the test scored in what some like to call the Ivy League interval, 650-800 in the verbal section, compared to 3 percent at the state and national levels," Peebles said.
In the math portion of the SAT, 10 percent of Alexandria students scored in the 650-800 range, compared to 7 percent in the state and nation, according to Peebles.