Q: How does the District decide the appropriate number of teachers to hire each school year?
A: Great question! The answer involves a mix of some legal guidelines, best projections by our district demographers, and trends in student attrition and an awareness of growth that we’ve seen in certain schools/neighborhoods.
Q: More specifically, how many students are allowed in each classroom?
A: For elementary core classes in grades K-4, the TEA recommended ratio is 22:1, meaning 22 students to one teacher in each classroom. If a district exceeds this ratio in K-4 classrooms, then the district has the option of filing a waiver with the State, or adding another classroom and teacher. Any TEA waivers must be approved by the Board of Trustees. For our middle and high schools, the staffing ratio is 26:1 for core classes (some areas such as band, choir, orchestra, and special education are staffed separately). No TEA waivers are not required for any grade levels other than K-4.
Q: So, do you simply hire one teacher for every 22 students who enroll?
A: We wish it was that simple! Student enrollment is a constantly moving target, but past trends in student attrition have shown that staffing at the slightly higher 23:1 ratio gets us the closest to balancing classroom sizes with responsible expenditures of public funds.
Q: What causes districts to exceed the ratios?
A: There is more growth in a district than projected. Demographers’ projections involve looking at all kinds of data - trend growth data, birth rates, new home starts and prices of homes selling in the area.
Q: What are the actual teacher-to-student ratios in Georgetown ISD?
A: In November of 2016, only 7% of K-4 classrooms were over the 22:1 ratio (93% were 22 students or below.) In other words, out of approximately 200 teachers, only 14 classrooms were over the 22:1 ratio. GISD is a growing district; therefore, as the year goes on, this number becomes slightly higher as more students enroll in our district. As of the end of March, 2017, 90% of our classrooms remained at 22 students or below.
Q: So, why doesn’t the District just add more classrooms and teachers?
A: We often do! If we see significantly more growth than expected during student registration, then we usually add teachers. If we continue to see growth right after school starts, then we also usually add teachers. Once school is in full swing, we continue to monitor class sizes daily. We’ve found that student registration usually slows after Labor Day each year, so after that we monitor class sizes periodically.
Q: What factors does the District use to decide to add an additional teacher instead of filing a waiver?
A: If we only have one additional student in a classroom, then we sometimes file a waiver, as history has shown that exceptional teacher applicants are less likely to be available after school starts. In addition, we all understand that students (especially our youngest!) are reluctant to change teachers after they’ve grown comfortable with one, and so we try to minimize disruptions to these relationships as much as possible. We’re also mindful of using limited district resources on extremely small classrooms; e.g. splitting a classroom of 24 students into two classrooms of 12 students each. Occasionally, the District may not have the necessary space to create a new classroom inside one of our schools.
Q: What role does the campus principal play in determining whether to hire a teacher or submit a waiver?
A: Our campus principals, who know their students and staff best, always provide critical input on these decisions. Sometimes, support may be added but in a different way. A paraprofessional (teacher’s aide) may be added instead of splitting a class and disrupting students. This provides additional support for the teacher and another adult in the classroom to help monitor and supervise students. We also regularly update our Board of Trustees about the reasoning behind any requests for waivers.