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Education Activity Lowers Kindergarten Pupil-to-Teacher Ratio

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 10, 2009 – Kindergartens at many Department of Defense Education Activity schools will have fewer students per teacher when classes resume in the fall.

A student-to-teacher ratio that has ranged from 24-to-1 to 29-to-1 will drop to 18-to-1.

“We’ve made the decision to place an additional classroom teacher and an additional full-time teacher aide into the kindergarten classrooms that have the highest kindergarten enrollment,” said Charlie Toth, the activity’s principal deputy director and associate director for education. The 18-1 ratio not only accommodates smaller class sizes, but also increases contact time between students and qualified teachers, he added.

The changes initially will be made in schools with the most crowded kindergarten classes that have the additional classroom space the new ratio would require, Toth said. It will start with 19 classrooms in 14 schools and will expand as facilities allow, Toth said. The schools are in Germany, England, Italy, the Mediterranean and Japan, as well as two schools in the Georgia/Alabama district and one in North Carolina.

The program requires no additional funds, Toth said. “It’s a reallocation and a refocus on our existing resources to plan the execution of this initiative,” he explained.

The lower ratio allows teachers more time for more individualized instruction, said Lori Pickel, the Department of Defense Education Activity’s childhood education coordinator.

“It increases the ‘face time’ that kids get,” she said. “It’s an opportunity for us not only to have the individual instruction … but those very important conversations that happen between adults and children, and for the teacher to model and to help kids get more out of not only the academic piece of school, but how to interact and survive through school.”

To determine the new ratio’s effectiveness, officials are developing a systemwide, standards-driven assessment process to measure student achievement in kindergarten through second grade. Activity officials will evaluate the program anecdotally for the next two to three years until the formal assessment is complete, Toth said.

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