One answer to “Why are there 42 kids in my child’s class?”

The AJC had an interesting piece this weekend on the inexact science of predicting school enrollments. I cannot link as the story was limited to AJC subscribers and did not appear online.

The gist of the story: Despite reviews of multiple records — census, birth records, housing, dropout and migration — and mathematical formulas, schools can get enrollments wrong. The predictions become even more difficult in a recession when parents are pulling their children out of private schools. (Public school enrollment is up nationwide.)

Here is a short excerpt of the AJC piece, which is worth reading in the Sunday paper:

Cobb County recently spent $2.2 million hiring 30 extra teachers because its projection was low by 1,364 students. Gwinnett’s projection was 2,059 students low. The district is hiring 10 teachers because of the growth, and it transferred 16 teachers and 10 support staff from schools under the projection to those that were over.

DeKalb County broke a record with 98,943 students, 1,268 over the projection, administrators said. In Fulton County, administrators were surprised to see 624 more students than anticipated.

Fayette County saw the opposite. Four years ago, it predicted it would have 4,500 more students. Instead, it lost 1,800, leading to a recommendation by Superintendent Jeff Bearden to close three schools. Now Bearden is leaving at the end of the school year. The school board approved his exit, “by mutual agreement, ” last week.

For most districts, the projection errors were minor compared to how many students they enroll — a .6 percent error, for example, in Fulton, which had to move some teachers as a result.But administrators are frustrated, too.

“Enrollment projection determines everything, ” said Yngrid Huff, Fulton schools’ director of operational planning. “It determines how many teachers and textbooks we need … to how many buses we dispatch. It drives everything in every entity of the school district. When we miss that mark, we only have a short amount of time to respond.”

Anita Johnson said her daughter Kelsey, a junior at Southwest DeKalb High School, didn’t have homework or a math class for the first month of school. “My daughter was living ‘la vida loca’ (the crazy life), ” she said. One of her classes had 56 students, she said.

When 42 seventh-graders unexpectedly showed up in Allison Clarke’s science class at Cobb County’s Barber Middle School, she dragged in extra chairs, gave a quick lecture and gave students assignments due at the end of the class. Managing that many students is “doable, but it’s not fun, ” she said

Fulton County administrators blame overcrowded elementary schools on a booming rental housing market in South Fulton, coupled with several Sandy Springs parents pulling their children out of private schools. “We’ve never undershot South Fulton, ” Huff said. “It’s something we’re trying to put our hands around. It’s a mystery.”

At Hopkins Elementary in Gwinnett County, where projections were 109 students off the mark, principal Penny Clavijo realized during home visits that several of her new students had moved in with relatives. Several other families had rented rooms from homeowners.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

29 comments Add your comment

Beverly Fraud

October 1st, 2012
4:11 pm

Seems like a perfect opportunity for some central office administrators to pitch in, and at the same time get some “in the field” experience.


October 1st, 2012
4:28 pm

For all the private school haters out there, think of this: those parents pay WAY more than their share of the property taxes, yet consume no public school resources. If they all pulled their kids out of private schools, the public schools would collapse under the weight of all those new kids, and there would not be one dime of extra money to take care of them. (I could also say that many if those private school graduates go on to employ or provide healthcare for many of the public schol graduates or drop-outs, so don’t kill the golden goose, but that would just be “mean” so I won’t.)

Once Again

October 1st, 2012
4:30 pm

Here’s the best answer – because Socialism doesn’t work (nor does government central planning of resources). We can look at the obviousness of this in reference to the former Soviet Union and its collapse but somehow wish to believe that we americans can do it somehow better and can somehow justify all of the system failures by pretending that education is “too important to be left to the market.” Education is way too important to be left in the hands of government and its entrenched failed bureaucracy.


October 1st, 2012
4:34 pm

Another sign of armageddon: two comments in a half-hour on an education blog, and about 60 per hour on the Ga Tech football blog. Hard to say who is having a worse year, GT football or the Atlanta area public school systems. Clayton and Dekalb may both end up on probation or lose accreditation, and APS…well, what can you even say? At least Tech isnt being kicked out of the ACC (although after last weekend maybe they should be.)


October 1st, 2012
4:35 pm

All my comments are “awaiting moderation”…I guess our thoughts and voices have to be cleared by the moderation police now?


October 1st, 2012
4:42 pm

Were those who rented rooms from homeowners actually LIVING in the rooms, or trying to get into a better school?


October 1st, 2012
5:02 pm

One of many possible answers. The probable answer in DeKalb? The stupefying financial mismanagement of county schools administration.


October 1st, 2012
5:06 pm

once again, once again georgia voters get what they elect, but the days of the rich old white dude party are numbered and our public schools can once again get needed resources. end all wars and use our taxpayer money for educating our children properly. once again

bootney farnsworth

October 1st, 2012
5:14 pm

its actually pretty simple

despite the recession, Georgia’s population continues to grow.
at the same time, the state has backed away from its requirement to educate its children
add to it the current culture of teacher bashing

more kids in fewer classrooms with fewer teachers willing to put up with the “joys”
of teaching them

The Deal

October 1st, 2012
5:24 pm

When school systems insist on paying central office administrators out the nose and cut the schoolhouses to the bone, there is no room for error. If schools still had paras, class sizes that are required to meet the state maximums (instead of years upon years of waivers adding 2 here, 3 there), and properly experienced and trained administrators, these problems would be tiny bumps in the road.


October 1st, 2012
5:49 pm

@Sheepdawg…get a life, and while you’re at it, go back for some more “schooling” so to speak. “rich old white dude party”? “no more wars’? If this is what you see, then please get off your couch and do more pertinent research. Beverly Fraud hit it perfectly when he/.she stated that Central Office personnel should be kicking in to help. A very true and wise statement, but it’s not going to happen since every school system has gotten so top-heavy with idiotic, uneducated administrators. We may as well get used to it; we have a mobile society who thinks that no matter where they (society) lives, SOMEONE ELSE will fix any problem that needs to be solved.

Sandy Springs Parent

October 1st, 2012
6:39 pm

My 12 year old told me on the way to school today, you know mom, alot of these kids at my school do not live in Sandy Springs. I said I know, alot of line jumpers.

Her comment from last week was, Mom why do alot of kids at school get their lunch for free. I told her it is because they lie, because 58% of the students can not afford to live in Sandy Springs and their families make less than $22,000 it takes to qualify for free lunch. She then tells me that the other kid tells her if you have a single parent family you qualify. So we would qualify. I told her no sweat heart, that is not the case, you must make less than $22,000 a year and we make more than that. I told her that alot of people in Sandy Springs are either lying about what they make because otherwise you can not afford a $1,200 plus apartment for something nasty. $2200 to 2,500 for something nice or at least $325,000 for an old unrenovated house.

So as the saying goes from the mouths of babes, so comes the truth.

Private Citizen

October 1st, 2012
7:03 pm

From the teacher’s perspective, question being how many classes. 42 x ?

Minumum of 5 classes, maybe 6. In other words, what is the total number of students? 100 or 180?

Bill Damon

October 1st, 2012
7:37 pm

I am not a “professional” educator. I’m a retired business executive. During 2010, I spent a year in South Korea teaching English as a Foreign Language. There were more than 40 students in each of my elementary grades classes. One parent who spoke some English assisted me as a volunteer. The process worked because Korean students are exceptionally disciplined, sit up straight, pay attention and are driven by what they call the “national will” to succeed. Korean culture also values learning and holds teachers in the highest esteem–above sports heroes, politicians and just about any profession short of the Buddhist holy man. Schools must fight for resources as schools must everywhere, but there is more than ample to provide first-rate quality schools. There are no teachers’ unions, yet teachers are among the best-paid in the world (again, respect for the calling and that “national will” business). The difference between U.S. and Korean public schools is like Night and Day. A typical U.S. student or teacher wouldn’t last ten minutes in a Korean classroom. Just my observations based upon a year of first-hand experience.


October 1st, 2012
7:40 pm

sheepdawg…how great were the schools when the Dems had the governor’s mansion and both houses of the legislature with no general election opposition for almost 100 years? Yeah, didn’t think of that did you? GOP has been in power in Georgia for less than ten years, and a lot of those folks are dem party jumpers who switched just so they could get re-elected.


October 1st, 2012
8:20 pm

billybobjacket — so ten years is not enough, heh? To use a Romney argument — we couldn’t afford the losses of the last ten years and we certainly can’t afford another ten!

I'm just sayin'

October 1st, 2012
8:27 pm

I get really tired of people just assuming the private school education is automatically superior to a public education. I’ve seem success and failure from graduates from both. I’ve been around a long time and the saying for a long time has been the difference between private and public? Private has better drugs and alcohol.


October 1st, 2012
9:38 pm

Being a product of private schools myself, i can certainly vouch for the better drugs and booze in private schools.


October 1st, 2012
9:52 pm

yeah, because we haven’t poured money into our public schools at all over the past 30 years…..seriously? Our Schools are underfunded? What a crock. But please, please, please keep up that line of argument. Then, when I show my friends the truth (DOUBLING of per student spending, even after adjusting for inflation, with ZERO increase in scores), they will see how incredibly mislead they have been, and finally open their eyes to the insatiable appetite for money that the educrats and bureaucrats have in our public school systems…and how they are willing to say anything in order to get more money.

But of course…its ALL ABOUT THE CHILDREN – yeah, right. But again, please keep spouting this crap. It makes things so much easier for those of us who are armed with the actual truth.

William Casey

October 2nd, 2012
12:12 am

@dc: give it a rest.

NW GA Math/Science Teacher

October 2nd, 2012
6:02 am

Why so many in regular ed classes? Because you’re paying for some special ed classes with two or three adults with one student.


October 2nd, 2012
6:40 am

FYI: the economy in Ga sucks. Schools receive funding based on taxes. Tax bases are now lower. This is less $ in the school, so cuts have been made. Not too many at central office, mind you…but in the schools, we are operating on bare bones. That is why the number of students in the classrooms is so high…42, however, is ridiculous. I will now stop complaining about my 32.


October 2nd, 2012
10:11 am

In Fayette County it sounds like “white flight”. You’ll never hear that from them but it seems very plausible. 1800 students POOF! No major job loses, go figure. Gains in other area particularly Cobb and Gwinnett. What about Spalding and Pike Counties?

BTW @I’m Just Sayin’ – Great comment.

drew (former teacher)

October 2nd, 2012
10:20 am

Yeah DC…it’s that “insatiable appetite for money” that lured those selfish, greedy teachers into education in the first place. Armed with the truth! You’re funny!


October 2nd, 2012
10:44 am

If you think the Soviet Union practiced Socialism, you really need to take a history class (and a reality check).

I’ve been both a student and a teacher in those huge classes, and it’s not fun from either side of the equation. I worked for APS, and the system is so top heavy with central office (and in APS, there are many, many central offices!) staff it is completely ridiculous. We didn’t need huge SRT staffs, and multiple literacy/math coaches who didn’t actually teach, we needed more classroom teachers!


October 2nd, 2012
11:42 am

Amen Tracie, but let them tell it, THEY have all the answers, and we classroom teachers just need to work harder.


October 3rd, 2012
9:57 pm

I went to a private school for the first 12 grades. In the first eight grades, there were no less than 52 kids in the class. We learned because there was discipline in the classroom. If you got into trouble, your mother knew about it before you got home. The problem with public schools today is that the parents don’t back up the teachers and juvenile delinquents are attending school along with everyone else. I’m sorry but if you’re a juvenile and you’ve committed a crime, you need to go to a “special” school where you can be helped by teachers who are trained to work with juveniles. Why should good students be short changed?

Ole Guy

October 4th, 2012
5:06 pm

And just exactly what is wrong with 42 kids in a class? And don’t start with that worn out arguement about “can’t provide individualized instruction”. These kids, like it or not, are going to have to come to terms with the hard reality that 1) they are NOT to be considered (other than by their momas and, maybe, their papas) special people requiring special attentions; 2) whether in college, the work world, or any place of public gathering, they have to learn to adapt to the fact that the world awaits no one; they can either hack it…or pack it, get it the first time, or do whatever it takes to get with the program. This spoon-feeding mentality has to stop right damn here and right damn now. You people are creating a generation of _ ussys, mentaly, moraly, and psychologically…stop worrying about stuff which really shouldn’t be an issue. The reason YOU have made it so is simple…YOU, the educational community, refuse to take full responsibility for controling these kids. Start getting tough with these kids, take no _ hit from their antics, stop trying to please the gd parents, and get on with the business of educating these kids. Then, class size won’t matter whether it’s 4, 14, or 42.

Stop creating your problems…


October 12th, 2012
8:55 pm

I”m not going to assign essays for 42 students in 3 classes and then return them, graded, with comments, by the end of the week. I”m not going to assign so much as a paragraph. We can just test for recognition via m/c, fill-ins, etc. I’m not calling 6% to 10% of 120+ sets of parents on a weekly basis about anything…………good or bad. I”m not going to multiple IEPs, magnet conferences, nor asisting with after-school academic and non-academic activiities. No, I’m not going to stay up half of the night every night writing lessons, grading papers, responding via email/phone to parents, doing endless idiotic county and state paperwork, and then listen to how privileged I am to have a job at all. I don’t want to hear about what a slacker I am because schools close and give students 10 weeks off while teachers take their 8 to rest, work a second job, or do all the work we can’t possibly get to once the next year starts. No, I’m going to take my three non-education degrees and leave the math, science, and world language k-12 classes to someone who is less well-acquainted with the idiotic mandates from local, state, and federal politicians. I like getting bonuses in the five-figure range, pats on the back, vacations at different times of the year, stock options, profit-sharing and the like. It’s time to let someone else ‘invest’ in education. I already gave at the office.