Have classes grown this year in your Georgia district?

What are class sizes like in your school? (AJC file)

What are class sizes like in your school? (AJC file)

I have been getting comments and emails about larger class sizes this year, including an Atlanta parent whose middle school students had 43 students in her French class in a portable classroom.

(The parent wanted to know if it was legal to shoehorn that many adolescents, some of whom had to sit on the floor, in a portable classroom,  and I am still waiting to hear about that. I am assuming that the French class has fallen in size by this point.)

DeKalb school board member Nancy Jester has also been getting complaints from her constituents about rising class sizes and sent out this note to some of them:

I’ve received a number of emails about the class size limits for this school year.

I received a terrific question about my thoughts on our class size limits. Specifically, I was asked to reconcile why I voted against both the class size increases and a millage rate increase. The question assumes that in order to keep class size at last year’s limits, one would need to increase the millage rate.

I disagree. According to data submitted to the Georgia Department of Education by the school districts, Henry County, Cherokee County, Cobb County, Decatur City, Forsyth County, Clayton County, Marietta City and Fulton County, all spend less per student on general administration than DeKalb and have lower millage rates. (Here is her documentation.)

Interesting to note from the DOE data that Jester posted that APS and DeKalb outspend other districts on administration costs.  DeKalb spends $618 per pupil; Atlanta spends $681. In comparison, Fulton spends $570 and Gwinnett spends $602.  It would seem that DeKalb and Fulton would align in their admin costs, given their size similarity.)

What are you seeing in your districts in terms of class size?

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

103 comments Add your comment

living in an outdated ed system

August 15th, 2012
2:01 pm

This is one of the symptoms of a monopoly system gone terribly awry. Just remember it didn’t have to be this way if traditional public schools innovated decades ago!

Ron F.

August 15th, 2012
2:12 pm

outdated ed: innovation doesn’t mater when funding falls like a rock in a pond. Trust me- we’ve been innovating, and the blessed charter schools aren’t producing remarkable test scores either.

Class sizes have gone up in the rural districts. Mine is up to 28-32 depending on what you teach. Lab classes we try to keep at 28.

3rd grade parent

August 15th, 2012
2:15 pm

There are 27 students in my son’s class this year. He is a student in DCSS.


August 15th, 2012
2:17 pm

Innovation in schools must come from the classroom teacher. No amount of standards, policies, or mandates can be substituted for her or him. There are lots of great teachers out there who daily provide their students with rich learning experiences. Waiting for our system of education to make a drastic change to the better is time wasted. Support and encourage our best teachers and those striving to be better. But “take no prisoners” when it comes to removing bad teachers. This starts with parents at the school and individual classroom level.

HS Public Teacher

August 15th, 2012
2:19 pm

Crept up? No

Jumped up? Yes

By the way, while the total number of students in the school remain the same, we have fewer teachers teaching larger classes. We also have more administration (that do no classroom teaching at all).

Go figure.

colin schaeffer

August 15th, 2012
2:21 pm

The good old boys in power don’t want smart people in Jawjah…they want more stupid people that will vote for them! That’s why they keep on defunding education more and more. I pulled my child out of the horrendous Ga public school system.


August 15th, 2012
2:29 pm

Ron F. – the “blessed charter schools” may not be producing remarkable test scores. Hmmm.. a friends child struggled and failed the first round of the end of year testing for 3rd and 4th grades… in public school. He attended charter school in 5th and was on honor roll and “exceeded expectations” on the end of year exam. Same school this year – 17 kids in the classroom. My ADD son has received a better education here than at the public school if for no other reason than the miles of red tape we don’t have to wade thru to get that little bit of extra assistance. My question is this… why can’t my son’s education dollars follow him if the public school isn’t the best fit? Does the public school receive that money? If not; where does it go? Find out where that money goes and guess who’s side they take.


August 15th, 2012
2:30 pm

Can’t say that they didn’t warn us. At Middle School in Cobb last year we were told that our high school (a Top 10 ) would have some classes of 30 and more. That is what prompted me to make the move to private school. I was afraid that my “sort of middle-of-the-road student” son would be just another face in the crowd getting As and Bs in a place where he wouldn’t have any hope to make a sports team or matter to a club with hundreds of members. Now we have classes of 10-12, some no-cut sports, cozy clubs and community service activities.

HS Public Teacher

August 15th, 2012
2:47 pm

@Colin Schaeffer and AngreRedMarsWoman,

Why do you (and we) allow this? These are OUR tax dollars and we need to DEMAND that our public education systems work for everyone! No one should feel the need to run to a private school, period!

We need to attend School Board Meetings and call out the wasteful spending on top-heavy administration. We need to catch the crooks giving away our education money to buddy contractors. And, so on!!!

Gone are the days of ethical people. WE have to become “big brother” and watch over the so-called ‘leaders’!!!!


August 15th, 2012
3:04 pm

Milton High School class size has actually dropped – thanks to the new high school in Milton.

Trim the Middle

August 15th, 2012
3:07 pm

On one side of the AJC, u have this article. On the other side u talk about an illegal student at Lakeside High School……1+1= ????????

Trim the Middle

August 15th, 2012
3:16 pm

BTW, what I am seeing in my district are the WORST standardized test scores in the state. Dekalb used to be the light of Atlanta. Now, its one of the worst along with Clayton, APS, and Fulton.(not counting North Fulton). Money isnt the problem. Its the families(lol) that send their kids to school in these districts. Now their are a few pockets here and there that exist in these districts where scores are still very high. I could tell you how to identify these areas, but I would probably have my comment sanctioned…..


August 15th, 2012
3:20 pm

My personal class size – not yet (It’s about what is was last year)
My oldest son’s – yes (He’s in 5th grade with a class of 32)

It is what it is. I’ve given up trying to convince people that smaller classes are better, because they want to be willfully ignorant. I’m going to do the best I can, and what happens, happens. I can only do my best.


August 15th, 2012
3:22 pm

We have jammed- packed classes with 32 or 33 students on our rolls in Coweta County. This has always been my problem with public schools. Where does it stop? Will it keep creeping up. You wouldn’t think so, but It is much harder to teach and manage 32 than 28. It makes a huge difference in the quality of teaching. I say class size is a huge issue!! REDUCE IT!!

dcss failing

August 15th, 2012
3:23 pm

From what I remember in the past 15+ years my kids have been in public school, it takes a couple of weeks for everything to shake out. Some people don’t enroll their kids until after Labor Day. Usually they end up splitting classes and hiring new teachers some time after school starts. I wouldn’t jump to conclusions right now. Not to say class sizes aren’t going to be bigger, I’m just saying that I don’t think you can make an accurate assessment on the 3rd day of school.

William Casey

August 15th, 2012
3:27 pm

When I began teaching at Pebblebrook HS (Cobb) in 1975, classes were routinely 30-35. Not saying that it SHOULD be that way, just adding a little perspective.


August 15th, 2012
3:30 pm

The issue here is money. It is always about money. Nobody wants to pay for smaller class sizes. Nobody wants to pay for anything. Nobody cares if you have good medical care. Nobody cares about anything but the size of their tax bill. LOL. This whole issue is a comedy.

colin schaeffer

August 15th, 2012
3:34 pm

@ hs high school teacher.. God bless for your work. I volunteered for years as room parent, pta officer, LSAC chair etc. I agree with you. But when it came to the point my child was regarded as a statistic instead of a real person I had had enough. The kids are commodities being force fed test answers and they are not learning as they should.

Charles Douglas Edwards

August 15th, 2012
3:37 pm

I believe that large class sizes are a detriment to a good quality education. Class size should be managable for educators.Teachers have a very, very hard job. Large class sizes mean more students, paperwork and stress.

The public schools need more teachers, resources and leadership. Charter schools are siphoning off precious resources and money needed by public education.

Charter schools siphon off the best students and generally exclude others students. Test scores will always be higher than a take all comers public school systems. We have basically re-segregated our schools.

Whites have their charter and private schools and others are relegated to public and inferior schools.

The #1 goal of our State Education System should be to educate the masses of its citizens.


August 15th, 2012
3:39 pm

Size of class does make a difference. Consider that teachers are human and only have so much time. Though it sounds good, no teacher can teach different learning styles and different learning levels in the same classroom. When it comes down to 2 children who need 5 minutes, and the teacher only has 5 minutes, who do you think is going to get that time. Will it be the child whose parent is never seen or heard from or the child whose parent will be there? Honestly, what would you do? No teacher should have to make such a decision, yet they must. My children got exceptional educations in the Cherokee County School System. I know they did, because I made sure I knew what was going on and when. Standardized test scores came in and, every year, they were extremely good. I used the Parent Connect system and when a grade wasn’t posted correctly and my child could prove it, either the child or I, depending on the child’s age, would talk to the teacher and get it fixed. Teachers are human, they make mistakes, and most of them appreciate respectful correction when they do. I believe the bottom line is – it takes parents, teachers, and students to get an above average education in any school, but the teacher must have time to do their job..It can not be done with such high numbers of students. Parents, if you can give that teacher some of your time and do what the teacher needs you to, not what you might like to do, and not turn that time into a mini conference about your child, all the students will be better off because you can give the teacher more time.

Tonya C.

August 15th, 2012
3:44 pm

William Casey:

Just a footnote…IDEA was passed in 1975 so your classes weren’t representative of what is being seen now. Add in ADA, NCLB, and now common core—I’d think many teachers now would gladly take the 30-35 you had!

Inman Park Boy

August 15th, 2012
3:50 pm

According to so-called “hard data” there is little or no evidence that once a child is beyond secord or third grade that class size has any appreciable affect on student learning. I have always suspected that to be true (yes, I am a teacher/administrator) but I think it misses the point. When I was a full time classroom teacher the “learning environment” was certainly affected by class size. When I first started (at McEachern High School, in 1971) I had five classes of 30. Those numbers crept down over the years, and when I last taught full time (in a private school about fifteen years ago) I had six classes of 20. The children I taught in 1971 may have learned just as much as the children I taught in 1997, but I guarantee you that the 1997 class got a lot more attention from me. Children are more than “learners,” they are quite obviously human beings, and thay want the teacher’s attention. WIth a a smaller class, I could give them that attention. Is it worth the money? You be the judge. It’s your taxes.

Old timer

August 15th, 2012
3:52 pm

Cut administration costs and then you have more money for classrooms. It doesn’t need to be what it is.

Old timer

August 15th, 2012
3:56 pm

I had a Ga History. Lass in Dekalb in the early 70s with 41 kids….difference was they behaved. Teaching techniques were not so hands on.

Fred in DeKalb

August 15th, 2012
3:57 pm

It is interesting what what can conclude if you cherry pick the data. The comparison data Nancy provides is from 2011. I expect the general administration costs to go down given the restructuring done in the DeKalb central office. Over 4,000 positions were formerly coded for the Central office, it now has just over 800. When you attempt to draw conclusions from bad data, one can make bad decisions. This change should result in an increase in school administration costs. You can validate this at,


and at,


It is fair to say that bad data exists in most organizations, especially in schools.

It would be interesting for Nancy to share the budgets since 2007, so everyone can also see the decreases over time, especially the state portion. Increasing class sizes is a tool that school districts around the country are using to address shrinking budgets. Everyone seems to like talking about schools getting lean and mean until they see the impact on the class room. Anyone in favor of increasing revenues? Otherwise this will be the future of public education.

Maybe we should have kept Roy Barnes in office. At least he mandated lower class sizes. Too bad he wanted to go after teacher tenure also.

Blue Fish in a Red Lake

August 15th, 2012
3:59 pm

In Forsyth, in a school with a PTA machine that has a very impressive budget…class size is still going up. My oldest is in 4th grade now, and the class size is 29 students. There were 23 in his third grade class last year. My 2nd graders’ class has 22 (but only because #23 moved away before class started). Some of this may be just that the older children can be expected to stay focused a bit better, but I seem to remember that it was 20 per class all the way up when my son started Kindergarten. I’ll have to pull out the oldest yearbook we have and compare.

Another comment

August 15th, 2012
4:00 pm

In Cobb county the full credit version of the PE class required to graduate from high school had 74 students in it. You may say its only PE, but this is not the 1/2 credit of PE that is taken with the 1/2 credit of the mandatory health class to graduate. This class has 3 days x 1.5 hours of book work and only 2 days scheduled for them to actually work out. The first day only 50 of the 74 on the teachers roll actually showed upon. My daugher is a senior who got very sick freshman year And missed 7 weeks of school. Even though she had a high A going into this class she was withdrawn from it and the compliant health class because she physically could not even. Walk the mile required around the track. we do have a 504 now. She said there are at least 4 other seniors in the class with her, she said they need to give her and the other seniors priority and move the freshman out. the school kept on pushing for me to sign her up and take this class on Line at the Cobb virtual academy for a $250 charge . My question was how do you take PE on the Internet? They said with a heart rate monitor, how would they not know it was me or my 12 year old. I can out do my 17 year old on the treadmill, I have low blood pressure and a low heartbeat. How can they not know how many teachers they need for mandatory classes . It is a simple calculation 800 students per year or 400 per semester need this mandatory class. Even if you got it to 12 sections a semester that is still 4 teachers. Since, we are probably talking. About coaches. And the athletic department head then let’s justs say it will take 6 positions to teach the mandatory PE and health classes with the majority of the students taking the 1/2 credit PE and 1/2 health at the same time either team taught or taught by the same teacher at a 2400 student school.


August 15th, 2012
4:13 pm

Dunwoody schools have seen a huge jump in class sizes – averaging the max, 35 students K-12. It’s really fun in schools built for smaller class sizes. Many of my high schooler’s classes are so packed with desks and students that they can’t get up during class to go to the board without everyone shifting furniture around.


August 15th, 2012
4:21 pm

30-35 has become the new norm at my high school. We have a few classes with 40 + students.

Dekalb Teacher

August 15th, 2012
4:26 pm

The new Tucker High School building is built to house around 1,500-1,600 students. We are currently at 1,800. I can guarantee you that 1/3 of those students do not live in the attendance zone and that some live in outside Dekalb County. The parents of these students lie about their residence so that their children can attend THS in order to play football. The other reason is that they want their child to attend a better school than their home school. Part of the problem stems from the fact that DCSD allows parents to turn in affidavits as proof of residency – a notarized note from a person who lives in the attendance zone stating that this person lives with them (when they really don’t). I have classes of 37 or so. Some of my other colleagues have around 190 students total. If DCSD wants to retain their good teachers, they are going to have to enforce the attendance zones. Besides, I don’t see how the school is allowed to break fire code regulations.

Concerned DeKalb Mom

August 15th, 2012
4:42 pm

My daughter had 20 students in her 3rd grade class last year. It was an inclusion class with a para or two helping with the students whose IEP’s required extra support.

This year, same daughter is in a class of 34. That is a class-size increase of 70%. I challenge anyone to tell me that her experience will be of similar quality this year.

teach me!

August 15th, 2012
5:07 pm

30-33 in a 6th grade middle school class at my school in Gwinnett is the norm..No space is the problem along with giving students extra help is limited..


August 15th, 2012
5:25 pm

Crept up Maureen? Cat got your tongue? Afraid of plain english? Such double-talk devalues your and the AJC’s credibility.

Larger class sizes are the clear results of Republican budget-cutting that has been going on for years. Citing data which appears to challenge the link between class size and funding deliberately ignores the big picture of anti-education hayseed rule that we have in this state. Too many empty nester grayhairs and TEA Party nuts to think beyond budget cutting to the effects it might cause.


August 15th, 2012
5:31 pm

When I began teaching at Pebblebrook HS (Cobb) in 1975, classes were routinely 30-35. Not saying that it SHOULD be that way, just adding a little perspective.

Bingo. I was in school in 1975, and our class sizes were in the low 30’s. Here is the difference: in “those days”, students were put in classes of folks with similar learning abilities. You did not have the slower learners put in the same class with the quicker learners. Now, they jumble them up expecting somehow that the quick learners will somehow teach the slow learners. It’s a bunch of BS, and I am sure that it is much harder to teach a class like this than teaching a class of students with similar learning ability/speed.

It is different in HS, where students take courses based on their post-school career trajectory. Even in HS, though, it behooves students to learn how to learn in a large classroom. When they get to University, they may very well be sitting in a class of 100 or 200. Those that WANT to learn will learn. Those that don’t… won’t.

As far as how much Dekalb spends on administration per student… I won’t even comment except to say: It is a lot easier to raise taxes when you are a good steward of taxpayers money.


August 15th, 2012
5:39 pm

My daughter’s kindergarten class had 27 kids last year in the North Gwinnett cluster. The teacher was great, but the situation was AWFUL! And this year, they got rid of all parapros!!!! I can’t imagine what it must be like now!! I was fortunate enough to be a stay at home parent and could participate in the classroom on a weekly basis and make sure my kid was being taken care of. I hate to be like that, but with that many kids… someone is going to lose out. There is just not enough time in the day to properly educate all of them. I’ll be damned if I will let it be mine on the losing end.
We have since moved out of that district, but the class sizes where we moved are only slightly better. Looks like it will be another busy year at the school for me.

Proud Teacher

August 15th, 2012
5:46 pm

Follow the money in education. It does not lead to the students.
These huge class sizes are ridiculous. The administrators and boards are screaming, “Change.” How effective change be implemented by any teacher when he has been reduced to a single referee in a game over which he has no control of the rules.


August 15th, 2012
5:51 pm

Kindergarten….14 last year…..24 this year!! Crept up? HAHAHAHAHAHAH

English Teacher

August 15th, 2012
5:54 pm

I teach HS English and have over 160 students this year. My class sizes are between 32-34. Several people made the point that while class sizes have been this large in the past, we are in a dramatically different era. I some students with IEP accomodations that are in an honors setting. Those are contradictory (according to the specific accomodations). I have some ESOL kids as well, because their parents declined services and placed them in a class where they will be challenged. Then there are kids who are not prepared for HS in any way and will flounder for several months before getting it together…all with much support from me. All very normal and expected parts of the job, but so much more diffcult to meet their needs appropriately when there are so many of them.
Then there is Common Core, which is the third curriculum change in GA in 10 years. I’m not sold on it at all, but it doesn’t matter because it’s what we have to do.
I would gladly trade for 1971. I am very, very burned out and don’t see an end to the destruction of public education. It’s collapsing around us. You cannot burden the system any more or it will break.


August 15th, 2012
6:19 pm

I live in Forsyth county and there was a significant increase in class sizes 3 or 4 years ago, but it seems to have remained relatively steady since then. I asked my 11th grade son about his class sizes and it sounds like we are relatively lucky. He said AP Spanish only has 21, AP Stats only has 23, AP Chem has around 27 and the other 3 classes have around 30 or 31. I had been told by a teacher that they attempt to cap the classes at 32. I don’t know if thats true or not. My son has yet to have a class with over 32.

Hillbilly D

August 15th, 2012
6:27 pm

Back in my day, 33-35 was the norm. Of course, we could still get a paddling in those days. Discipline is the key.


August 15th, 2012
6:34 pm

I am so sick of hearing that smaller classes do not yield better results! If that is true, it is only because the teachers are working triple time to do a much more difficult job. Seriously, shut up with your empirical evidence blah blah blah and just say thank you!

Tech Prof

August 15th, 2012
6:36 pm

With the standard policy of government to cut, cut, and cut some more to education budgets, class size can only continue to increase. Parents must wake up and demand a quality education for their children by asking tough questions, demanding answers, and voting for people who really value education into office. Do we want to grow old in a society where the young people have recieved a subpar education?

Beverly Fraud

August 15th, 2012
6:37 pm

“Too many empty nester grayhairs and TEA Party nuts to think beyond budget cutting to the effects it might cause.”

True. But don’t school systems lose all right to complain of cuts when they readily embrace ADMINISTRATIVE BLOAT?


August 15th, 2012
6:59 pm

Sure, if you want to continue to punish teachers for sins committed by their bosses!


August 15th, 2012
7:03 pm

Right Ms. Fraud. I went to HS in the late 1960s and one of the big differences these days is the admin to student ratio. Where did all these folks come from? Talk about mission creep!

It’s possible that each postion added made in in the committee meetings which resulted in an employee recquisition but the long term result is a overgrown mostrosity. I don’t think anyone remembers how things worked without so many administrator and other special staff postions. Some things are done better these days (ESOL for example)than in th epast but most things are not.

I can’t help but think what would happen to our national/state/local economies if all these people were oput out of work. Perhaps the budeget cutters should look at this. And don’t use the cop-out about federal requirements. My daughter is a senior in an APS HS and I know of whnece I speak.


August 15th, 2012
7:05 pm


Long Time Teacher

August 15th, 2012
7:08 pm

This year I am teaching elementary EIP. I will take all of the lowest students on a grade level and teach them reading and math. DeKalb wants to put 20 children in each of my classes. They have no idea what it takes to teach children who are 2 or more years behind. I wish seasoned educators were on the Board so we could have some common sense. I’ll do the best I can this year but don’t expect miracles.

Hillbilly D

August 15th, 2012
7:08 pm

Some things are done better these days (ESOL for example)than in the past but most things are not.

Way back in the day, we had two different students, who would now be called ESOL, come into our school, at different times. This was at the high school level. One was from Argentina and one from Brazil but they both got the same program. They put them in Spanish class, all day, every day for six weeks and then they put them into the regular classes. Both were very bright people and it was amazing how quickly they adapted.

midnight garden

August 15th, 2012
7:24 pm

where can you find what the minimum/maximum class size is for elementary schools in Fulton county? We have about 32 in a 4th grade class in Fulton. Its a big jump from the 23 we had last year in 3rd but I believe they allow more. Hoping enough will show up to add a teacher.


August 15th, 2012
7:41 pm

In a word, yes.

Previous years have had class sizes trending up slowly (over a period of 7 years) from an avg of 24 to 26 then 28 but this year it has jumped to 32 or more. The legislature dropped all pretense of the push for lower class sizes begun by Zell Miller when they granted districts the ability to ignore the caps. Less teachers means bigger class sizes. You get what you pay for.

Due to my position, I am aware of class sizes across the county in my department. There are some reaching over 40. World Class my a$$.

Now, district-wide, the average class size will be touted much lower but you need to realize they count certain personnel who have no actual classes in the calculation because they have contact with students, just not in an actual classroom.

All part of the smoke & mirrors the legislature has set up.