MCHS grapples with large class sizes

Second period AP Gov./Econ. with 39 students (Photo: Maddie Qualls, The Puma Prensa)

by Maddie Qualls, editor

Coming back to school and seeing classrooms filled while lingering signs still state “Maximum Capacity: 16” can leave students with questions, especially when the year started with some individual classes much higher in population than would be normal in a typical year. With some exceptions, class sizes have mostly evened out as counselors worked out students’ schedule problems, but concerns related to class sizes are still on the minds of Maria Carrillo administrators, teachers and students alike. However, there are classes still being adjusted, and some teachers even recognize that larger classes can have their benefits.

MCHS Vice Principal Amy Wiese said that class sizes this year are “pretty standard with about 29 to 33 students per class and a couple with 35 and 36.” The largest class on the campus is second period Honors Living Earth with 46 students. However, “There’s a teacher in the process of being hired,” said Wiese. The current class will be divided between two teachers and into two sections of 23 students each, which will be under the ideal class maximum of 28 students for the freshmen’s core classes, such as English, math and Living Earth, according to Wiese.

“In 23 years of teaching and working with all classes, 28 [per class] is ideal for students, academically.”

-Amy Wiese

MCHS freshman Gianna Rafael noted that her classes are not excessively large, but she said that they are “still big enough to feel cramped,” with her Earth science and physical education classes being the biggest, with about 30 and 36 students in each.

Eilidh Takekawa, a MCHS sophomore, said, “This year, most of my classes are on the average to larger scale. I’d say an average of 32 students in each class. My [AP European History] class is definitely the biggest.” That class has 41 students in it, and she added that six to seven students have to work at the back counter of the classroom because there are not enough desks.

Deakins has between 35 and 40 students in each of his classes. However, he noted that “I’m in a unique situation. I teach AP US History and psychology, and these classes tend to be large because of their content.” He also added, “My classes are a product of my decision. Administration and I worked together to decide class sizes,” and he personally opted for a cap of 40 students per class. He has allowed large classes because he thinks that after the pandemic, students deserve to be able to take the classes they want. Deakins even said that the higher numbers of students can have their benefits for his subjects: the students are able to bounce their ideas off each other and get feedback on their work from their peers. 

Rafael thought similarly; she said larger classes can be “more fun and more social.” There are also more people to get help from, she noted.

However, according to Deakins, the primary difficulty of the large class sizes is staying on top of grading. “The AP kids write a lot of essay work,” so the challenge he said is “getting it back to them with comments.” Another small problem he encountered was a book shortage, but the administration was able to accommodate his classes’ needs.

Wiese has found that, “In 23 years of teaching and working with all classes, 28 [per class] is ideal for students, academically.”

“In my bigger classes I definitely feel like students don’t get as much individual attention unless they volunteer frequently or have some other memorable situation. If someone is quiet and doesn’t talk very often, then there’s a good chance the teacher might not even know their name,” noted Takekawa. 

Rafael said, “You have to ask more for help [in larger classes],” but it depends on the teacher. For example, she feels that it would be impossible for PE teachers to monitor everyone in the weight room. 

Another drawback that Takekawa mentioned was that classrooms can become a little chaotic during group work due to the numerous conversations. Rafael also said that “it’s more difficult to hear the teacher, and sometimes it’s really loud.”

In addition to the academic drawbacks of larger classes, Wiese expressed that “Healthwise, all of us have concerns.” However she noted that “most students are vaccinated, so I feel better with that. In classrooms, as long as students are masked and staying home when sick, I feel okay.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *