Local school has potential solution to overcrowded classrooms

May 10, 2012 6:03:21 PM PDT
As this school year comes to a close, thousands of students are looking forward to leaving their overcrowded classrooms. But in the fall, they are likely to return to classrooms even more crowded.

On Wednesday night, we showed you the problems associated with those expanding classes, but now we show you how one school discovered a solution.

We all know that before this school year started, the state cut billions from the education budget. One of the results you can see here is a dramatic rise in the number of elementary school classes that went above the 22 students to 1 teacher mandate. No one suspects it will get better next year.

While every school we found is dealing with this issue in one way or another, we found a school in Spring Branch that is not only proud of its big classes, but has found a unique and highly successful way to deal with it.

Not every school is waiting for the unlikely day when the state legislature sends more money. At the Cornerstone Academy, a Spring Branch public charter school, classes are almost all filled with 34 students. But also stacked with two certified teachers.

"Hailey and I are both certified to teach math and science," said teacher Jessica Henning.

Every teacher here is certified to teach at least three subjects -- two core and at least one elective; some more than that. It means fewer teachers teach more classes, all with the same budget as a traditional schedule.

"Small group instruction is very important. That's difficult to do when you have one teacher and 34 kids in a room. That's a challenge," said Cornerstone Academy Principal Jill Wright.

She's run out of room to list the years the school has been named exemplary and she believes it's one solution that could work in other schools in other districts, too.

"I don't think very many people can say that their best years were junior high; these kids will tell you that their best years are junior high," said Wright.

If you want to see how your school is doing, we've put every school in the Houston area on this map. When you're there, click on the red dots near your home to find your child's school to see the class size average for every grade or subject area.

We heard from several teachers Wednesday night that some of the averages are low. They may be lower than what you see in your classroom, but the state allows schools to average in special education classes which are always lower than other classes, which drives down the average.


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