Student-to-teacher ratio rises in Carson first grades

Teacher-to-student ratios in kindergarten, second and third grades dropped this year, but the ratio for first-grade classrooms increased - by less than one student, though.

Last year, first-grade teachers averaged 14.8 students in their classrooms. This year, they're averaging 15.6 students. Ratios for students-to-teacher in kindergarten are 21:1, 15:1 for second grade, and 18:1 for third grade.

"We are trying to keep the primary classes as small as possible because we feel we can make more of an impact in the students' education in the first couple of years than later on," said Mike Watty, associate superintendent of education services for the Carson City School District.

At tonight's school board meeting, Watty will provide class-size numbers for kindergarten through third-grade classes and seek approval from the board to send those numbers to the state to receive class-size reduction funding.

Traditionally, the district receives 45.5 percent of its kindergarten through third-grade teachers salaries through this funding.

The state's class-size reduction plan aims for a 15:1 average of students-to-teachers in kindergarten, first and second grade in each school district. That number jumps to 19:1 for third grade, and there are no requirements above that level.

Part of the explanation for the increase in the first-grade ratio in the school district this year is that many position cuts occurred in kindergarten through fifth grades. Much of this year's enrollment loss, some 69 percent, occurred within those grades.

"We reduced the number of teachers in each of the elementary schools, but the reduction of the teachers was up to the school," Watty said. "In some cases, it might have been at these grade levels, or it might have in other grades levels or not in these grades at all."

The highest ratio for a first-grade classroom was at Fremont Elementary School, with 17.4 students per teacher. Watty said the district lacks funding and space to decrease that ratio.

"Again, if you look at the total numbers, like in first grade, if we had one more classroom districtwide, we probably could make it, but it doesn't fit in neatly in any (one school site)," he said. "You can make an adjustment there, and the following year, it would bounce around."

Each year, the district is well above the kindergarten ratio, Watty said. But the state still provides funding with an explanation about that district's issues. Last year's ratios were: 21.6:1 for kindergarten, 15.6:1 for second grade and 18.6:1 for third grade.

n Contact reporter Maggie O'Neill at or 881-1219.


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