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Number of students per teacher hits a record high in Oregon

by: OPB - Number of students per teacher hits a record high in Oregon.Oregon's education system is making it into the record books, but it's not for something to be proud of. According to the Oregon Department of Education, the state has hit the highest number of students per teacher in the state's history.

For Medford-area science teacher Brian Corbett, who teaches at Central High School there, big class sizes are something he and other teachers are all too familiar with.

"My class sizes range from 25 to 36," said Corbett.

That's even more than the state average, which this past school year, was at about 23 kids per teacher for high school. It's the highest number in the state's history. For middle school the average was roughly 22 kids per teacher and in the elementary bracket it was 21.4 kids.

The state calculates the average class size by dividing the number of students by the number of full-time equivalent teachers. In reality, the typical classroom may have many more students than the reported average.

Oregon's numbers are substantially higher than the national average of roughly 16 kids for every instructor. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the most recent numbers are from 2010.

Big class sizes are a problem for teachers trying to help students succeed.

"It leaves less time for one on one, less time to help those students who are straggling," Corbett said.

It also makes it more difficult for teachers to develop a meaningful, personal relationship with students.

"When you think of some of the bigger schools seeing upwards of 230 kids every single day and you're seeing those kids an average of one hour per day as they come through, that's a lot of students," said Corbett. "We have to find new ways to really keep all these students coming and being successful."

He'll be continuing to do things like meet with students before school and during lunch.

"Lunches are pretty much gone. Most of the time I will spend a lot of my lunch in here with students, helping them. Or I'll be out in the commons where they're eating so I can help build more of those relationships with them," Corbett said.

There is a bit of a bright spot though. Todd Bloomquist, secondary education director for the Medford School District said that Governor John Kitzhaber's push for education and promise of more money is helping to reduce class sizes for the time being.

When it comes to funding for the next school year though, school districts won't know how much money they'll be getting until May.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the number of students per teacher has declined nationally. However, in Oregon over the last handful of years, it's steadily climbed.