Many have already heard the impressive news: Lyons Elementary School students scored so high on their 2010 CSAP tests (the state test by which all schools and students in Colorado are measured) that Lyons Elementary was specifically mentioned on the front page of the Denver Post in mid August. According to this year’s test results, Lyons Elementary School is sixth on the list of most improved schools statewide. It deserves mention that our school’s test scores were not low to begin with.
Grand congratulations are in order for the students, teachers and staff who worked hard throughout the year to make the gains that are reflected in this test.
A closer look at the CSAP scores of last year’s 5th grade class will also show a strategic step our district should take to improve the performance of every student in every school in the district: lower the number of students in each class. A quick history will prove helpful here: The class size for the 5th grade class last year averaged 17 students per teacher. Every year previous to 2009-2010, the class size for this same group of students was much larger: usually between 32 and 35 students. When comparing the test results for this past year (2010), with the year before, we see a significant gain among these students in all subject areas: a 5% increase in writing, a 9% increase in reading, and a 25% increase in math.
Last fall Principal Christa Keppler fought for the district resources needed to add an additional 5th grade teacher, which resulted in lowering the class size to 17. The 2010 test results clearly show that these resources were put to good use. The significant gains made by these students shows that lowering class size to 20 or less makes a huge difference in what students learn --and retain.
Some district administrators will argue that it is not cost effective to pay for the additional teachers needed to lower the class size to 20 or less. Many parents and community members will counter that the cost to our students, and in fact our whole society, is too great NOT to hire the additional skilled teachers needed make this change. It is a great advantage to the students, and a great advantage to our dedicated, over-worked teachers.
Lowering class size significantly is likely the single most important step our district can take to improve the success rate of all students.