University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

Class Size and Teacher Salaries

In The View from the OEP on January 23, 2019 at 2:03 pm

Class size has been in the news a lot this week as teachers striking in LA Unified identified reducing class sizes and raising salaries as two of the main issues. This got us wondering- how large ARE the classes in LAUSD, and how do they compare to class sizes in Arkansas?

In LAUSD, the average class size was 25.3, and minimum teacher salary is $50,368.  

In Arkansas, the average class size was 15.6, and minimum teacher salary is $31,800.

If we think about this on a per-student level, on average, a new teacher with a BA in LA would get $1,991 per student, while a beginning teacher with a BA in Arkansas would get $2,038.  And that’s not adjusting for the cost of living difference between here and there!

There’s BIG differences in per-student teacher salaries throughout Arkansas, with Nemo Vista being the highest paying district in Arkansas, on a per-student level. A new teacher in Nemo Vista makes $31,980 (only $180 more than the legal minimum) but the average class size is 8 students, meaning that the teacher is paid (in theory) nearly $4,000 per kid!

It’s so confusing! We want smaller classes AND higher salaries for teachers. Last week, we discussed teacher salaries around the state and how the proposed increase in minimum teacher salaries would affect teachers (relatively few) and students (probably won’t). This week, we have a new data visualization presenting minimum teacher salaries in each district throughout the state.

You can interact with the map by selecting specific districts or using the sliders to limit to ranges of minimum teacher salary, average class sizes, or % FRL. Additional information regarding each district’s academic achievement and growth percentile, average and maximum teacher salaries, as well as per pupil expenditure is included. If you just want the data- you can grab it at our website here.

salary viz

 

Last week we brought up how teacher salary is related to average class size, so here’s a simple visual of average class size and minimum teacher salary for districts in the state. In Arkansas, higher paying districts have larger class sizes.

Figure 1. Average class size and minimum teacher salary, by district.

cs and salary

We wondered if class size was the same across different types of schools. Nationally, elementary schools have lower average class sizes than middle or high schools (21 students per class compared to 26 at the higher levels).  We made some quick charts to check out if the same is true here. We found that, in Arkansas, Elementary schools have the largest class sizes, and High Schools have the smallest average classes.

  • Elementary schools have an average class size of 18.4 students per class.  Values range from 10 to 25, and schools with higher FRL rates generally have smaller classes.
  • Middle schools, with an average of 16.4 students per class, land in the middle of elementary and high schools with regard to class size.  Values range from 6 to 25, and schools with higher FRL rates usually have smaller classes.
  • High schools have an average of 10.8 students per class.  Values range from 4 to 20, but high schools don’t demonstrate a strong relationship between average class size and school FRL rates.

Figure 2. Average class size for Elementary Level schools by % FRL.

es class size

Figure 3. Average class size for Middle Level schools by % FRL.

ms class size

Figure 4. Average class size for High schools by % FRL.

hs class size

So- the good news is that across Arkansas students are in very small classes relative to their peers in LA across the country, which some research has linked to greater student achievement.  We think we should like how even smaller class sizes are showing up in schools serving more at-risk populations. Given Arkansas’ relatively small class sizes, our teachers should be able to give students quality opportunities to learn and grow every day.

The downside of such small class sizes, however, is that they contributes to lower teacher salaries.  This is because funding is provided to school districts on a per-pupil basis, so if a district has an average of 10 kids in each class there just isn’t enough funding to pay the same salaries that a district with an average of 20 kids in each class can.  It’s not a direct relationship, however, with starting salaries ranging over $10,000 among districts with the same average class size.

Higher teacher salaries and lower class sizes both sound great, but evidence of positive outcomes for students is unclear and large costs are associated with both choices.  Local school boards set the salary schedule for their teachers, and we think the decisions about how high to make teacher salaries, and how large to make classes, should be done strategically with careful consideration of resource allocation and district and community goals.

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