While educational training and teaching experience have some bearing on a teacher's effectiveness, the number of students in a classroom also can affect what a teacher can accomplish, some local teachers say.
"There are things you cannot do with a class of 30 that you can do with a class of 20," said Carol Abrahamson, a third-grade teacher at Hillcrest School. "The space that kids take up is not just physical space; it's psychological space. If a class is large, it affects the chemistry of that class."
The Lawrence school district has a general teacher staffing guideline for elementary schools of 25 students per teacher. The district also has guidelines for when classrooms merit the assistance of a paraprofessional. For example, first- and second-grade classes in many Lawrence grade schools must have 29 students or more to merit a full-time paraprofessional.
LAWRENCE School Supt. Dan Neuenswander said those guidelines on class size limits vary among schools.
"There are some schools where we feel like we have a larger student turnover rate and where we have a larger percentage of kids who come to us in need of extra help," Neuenswander said. Teachers in those schools can get a paraprofessional more easily.
Because of general fund budget cuts made in response to a $2.6 million drop in state aid, the Lawrence school board this year raised the classroom size required for many teachers to receive a paraprofessional.
Abrahamson, who last year had the help of a paraprofessional for a class of 30, said, "A paraprofessional allows you to sub-divide your children so you don't have so many large groups."
Paraprofessionals are not employed in the district's secondary schools, but the district's general staffing guideline for secondary schools is a ratio of one teacher for every 21 students for each school building. Student-teacher ratios then are established by principals for individual courses in secondary schools.
ASSISTANT Supt. Bob Taylor said secondary school classroom sizes probably average around 24 to 26 students.
Lawrence High School history teacher Paul Stuewe said that at least in his department, the average classroom enrollment seems more like 30 students. He said he would rather there not be more than 25 students in a class.
"Just having five extra students in the class makes a big difference when you're grading papers at the end of the day and trying to deal with the students' needs," Stuewe said.