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Student teacher ratio vs. average class size

2kidsnoanswers2kidsnoanswers Registered User Posts: 555 Member
edited January 2012 in Prep School Parents
I'm realizing that the two aren't the same. At Andover & Exeter, for example, the student teacher ratio is apparently 1:7, but the average class size is 13. I realize that some less popular classes might have less demand & therefore fewer kids than 13, pulling down the student teacher ratio. So that must mean there are a whole bunch of classes that have, say, 20 kids in a class?
Post edited by 2kidsnoanswers on

Replies to: Student teacher ratio vs. average class size

  • DAndrewDAndrew Registered User Posts: 1,216 Senior Member
    Both schools have a teacher/student ratio of 1:5. My understanding is that the "major" courses such as required English and history have a lower cap while other classes can vary. Usually language classes are smaller and some math/science electives bigger but rarely exceeding 20. Bigger classes are relatively fewer and I don't know how the class size and student/teacher ratio are inter-dependent.
  • classicalmamaclassicalmama Registered User Posts: 2,261 Senior Member
    Exeter's classes are limited by the size of the Harkness table. Classes are 12 students--I think my kid has said that sometimes there might be one or two more if someone had to add in. Higher level classes that only a few kids want or are qualified for will often be much smaller (third year Greek, for example)
  • 2kidsnoanswers2kidsnoanswers Registered User Posts: 555 Member
    Thanks for the thoughts. Still not sure how the teacher student ratio can be so different than the average class size. I used A & E as examples, but this would apply to any school. Was just looking at a school that says their teacher student ratio is 1:4, yet their average class size was 12!! I don't think schools have more than one teacher teaching a given class. So to come up with either number, wouldn't you just take the total number of students and divide by the total number of teachers?

    Unless there are a lot of teachers that teach very part time, such as only one quarter or one class?
  • TolkienTolkien Registered User Posts: 60 Junior Member
    Think about in this way: Normal course load for a student is 5 to 6. If EVERY teacher teaches 5~6 classes per day, the teacher/student ratio would be exactly the same as the average class size. However, the maximum course load for a teacher is 4. Many teachers also serve in other capacities (coaches, dorm parents, advisors, department chairs, deans, part-time admission officers, etc.), so their course loads are reduced accordingly. Then if you count on-leave faculties and teachers who don't normally teach (e.g. the principal), you'll get the average class size.
  • 2kidsnoanswers2kidsnoanswers Registered User Posts: 555 Member
    Got it, thanks! So what I really need to look at is average class size.

    Some schools only list teacher student ratio, which can be misleading to the unwary, who assume that the 1:5 ratio means the average class size is only 5 kids.
  • TolkienTolkien Registered User Posts: 60 Junior Member
    I don't know. Smaller teacher/student ratio but larger class size might indicate that teachers' course loads are lighter, so they might prepare better? or there might be more extracurricular activities in the school?

    During our revisit days, I always made a point to ask about class sizes, teacher's course load, and how many of them are repeat courses (say English 100 for four different periods; or 2 classes for English 100 and 2 for English 200).
  • 2kidsnoanswers2kidsnoanswers Registered User Posts: 555 Member
    Great questions, Tolkien. Any other questions you'd suggest to ask to understand the schools better? I'm learning that great questions (such as, how much does the school empty on weekends? is it more regional or more national?) can lead to info that can help paint a true picture of the school, and am trying to figure out what questions to ask!
  • PeriwinklePeriwinkle Registered User Posts: 3,501 Senior Member
    I think I would not be interested in a school with an average class size of 5. How does a student adapt to lecture classes of 200, or even a seminar of 16 in college, if she's had such a hothouse environment?

    I would expect to see the largest class sizes for the classes everyone has to have on their transcript to apply to college: standard math, science, english, 3 years of foreign language, the basic arts classes, etc. Then, the class sizes would drop off radically for the upper or more specialized courses, such as Greek 3, or advanced physics.
  • DAndrewDAndrew Registered User Posts: 1,216 Senior Member
    ^^Not sure if that's always true. The schools are ready to open more sections for the "standard" classes so the class size is sufficiently controlled, since all students are taking these classes and a section can be filled easily. However, for some electives sometimes because of the lack of qualified teachers and sometimes because of the number of students taking it being just short of requiring one more section, they may fit 16 or 17 kids in that one section, especially if it's a lecture based class.

    I agree class size being TOO small is not necessarily a good thing. You need a certain number of peers to have productive class discussions.
  • TolkienTolkien Registered User Posts: 60 Junior Member
    Slightly off topic, but I'd appreciate your thoughts on this:

    For year-long courses, some schools stay with the same teacher and the same students for the entire year. Other schools re-assign teachers and students every trimester. Pros and Cons?
  • classicalmamaclassicalmama Registered User Posts: 2,261 Senior Member
    Exeter changes every term with some exceptions. My kid sees this as mostly pro because if he doesn't click with a teacher, he's on to someone new. He also gets to know most or all of the faculty in each department, which may not be as big a deal in a smaller school. I think it made it easier to get to know classmates first year too.

    I haven't heard him express any con's--maybe because, the two times he absolutely loved a teacher, he got him/her again the next term.
  • erlangererlanger Registered User Posts: 488 Member
    Our bottom line is that BSs have comparatively MUCH smaller class sizes than PS such that 1:5 or 1:7 won't make a discernible difference. By and large the teachers are unbelievable accessible and able to engage students individually (although sometimes kids have to be a little proactive). What we've been somewhat more bothered is the BS tradition of hiring young teachers right out of college for a 1-3 year rotation. While smart and energetic, these teachers vary greatly in teaching ability and interest (some are just bying time before grad school) and they will not be there to see the kids through their full time at BS (incl. for recommendations, developing relationships, etc.). I'd be interested in the ratio of full time, career teachers vs. the "new blood" teachers.
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