The student to teacher ratio is one snapshot for the amount of individual attention a student is likely to get, but it’s easy to pad that number, says Michael Vonhof, principal at Delmarva Christian School in Georgetown. Average class size is a truer number, and if you really want to drill down, he says, find out about the average freshman class size to learn what a school’s newest students will experience during what is usually a year full of required classes.
Size does matter, agrees Robert Hampel, School of Education professor at the University of Delaware and former director of the School of Education. Here’s why.
“A classroom of 15 or fewer students can encourage a lot of discussion,” and that’s better for learning, Hampel says. “At that size, students are known as a unique individual by at least some adults in the school. They can’t slide through classes anonymously.” Bottom line: the difference between 26 and 21 isn’t meaningful, he says, but the difference between 20 and 15 is.
Delaware’s private schools clearly have the edge in class size: all but Salesianum School, St. Elizabeth, St. Mark’s and Wilmington Christian, have classroom averages of 17 or lower—a few as low as 11 (St. Andrew’s and Delmarva Christian). Only one charter achieves the golden number of 15: Positive Outcomes.