By Andrew Cluley
Two straight years of enrollment increases have pushed the Ann Arbor Public Schools to over 17,100 students for the current school year. The annual student enrollment/class size report however shows the additional 655 students over two years hasn’t come at the expense of overcrowded classrooms.
90-percent or more of classrooms at all levels other than kindergarten are currently within or below the target range for class size. 81 percent of kindergarten classrooms have 23 or fewer students, and the other 19 percent of kindergarten classes have a teacher assistant assigned to keep the adult to student ratio at 12 to 1.
Superintendent Jeanice Swift says having a quality teacher in every classroom is the most important ingredient for learning, but class size is an important measure in parent confidence and giving teachers the ability to focus on achievement of each child. “The ranges are based in what we believe are best for students. Most districts would be extremely envious of numbers like these,” Swift says.
School Board Member Donna Lasinski says parents should understand Ann Arbor Schools are growing in a planned fashion that is designed not to harm student achievement. “When I see kindergarten class sizes, and we have 81 percent under 23 students in the class, that’s spectacular, it’s really spectacular in today’s day and environment and the cost pressures that we are consistently under. I think it truly reflects Ann Arbor’s priority in the best student experience,” she says.
Trustee Andy Thomas says it’s important to note the enrollment increases can be credited to adding new programs in response to the community requests Swift heard during her listen and learn tour. “One important one is adding the early five program and kindergarten which has really helped that number. You look at Mitchell with a fantastic increase, this is I believe two years now that we indicated we would be going for the early years program as part of the IB program at Mitchell and that seems to be very popular,” says Thomas. He also credits creating A2 Steam at Northside, and opening additional slots at popular programs such as Ann Arbor Open and Community High School. “All in all this is a very, nice increase and I think a real testament to the programs we have started here.”