As Palo Alto High School begins the second semester of the school year, many upperclassmen who are currently enrolled in English electives are being impacted by overcrowded classes.
The average public secondary school class size in the country is around 26 students per instructor, according to the National Education Association. However, Paly’s classes exceed this value: there is an average student-teacher ratio of 28.5-to-1 for every class at Paly, except Special Education classes. For upperclassmen, this ratio further increases to 30.2-to-1, with some English elective classes currently having a ratio as high as as 35-to-1.
Electives such as Comedy Literature, Film Composition and Literature, Escape Literature, Sports Literature and Humanities are all jam-packed classes, as more students tend to sign up for them. All five of these contain at least an average of 32 students per class.
According to Vice Principal Kathleen Laurence, overcrowded classes stem from two places: students transferring electives at the beginning of the semester, and administrators needing to create larger than average classes to counteract classes that are smaller in size.
of the semester, [consequently] some classes will be bigger and some will be smaller,” Laurence said. “We also make choices at the beginning of the year about how big classes are going to be, and since we would like freshman classes to be smaller, this means somewhere else the class sizes need to increase.”
However, despite these large class sizes, Laurence says that there still lacks enough students in order to create any additional classes.
“In the classes’ breakdown, there are many English sections, but not enough to add another section,” Laurence said. “We only have a finite number of sections that we can assign [to each department].”
An anonymous student currently in Film Composition and Literature, who for these purposes we will refer to as John, believes that problems could occur as a result of well above average class sizes.
“My [elective] class currently has more students than desks available, and this may come back to pose a problem,” John said. “In addition, it’s quite probable that people who originally requested this class did not get a spot, so I’m sure that might cause additional issues.”
In order to try and prevent this issue from happening next year, Laurence states that because there will be additional units added onto the master schedule next year, the administration will reorganize the distribution of units, as the new distribution would reduce class sizes in the English department; especially to the most populated elective classes.
“The district is giving us a few more units next year,” Laurence said. “The additional units next year may help reduce the size of English classes in the future.”