Carson City well within student-teacher averages | NevadaAppeal.com

Carson City well within student-teacher averages

by Maggie O'Neill

Josh Davis, 10, a fourth-grader at Empire Elementary, sits in Ingrid Frenna's class. Officials say Carson City School District is doing well in terms of teacher-to-student ratio. Rick Gunn Nevada Appeal

Fifth-grader teacher Ingrid Frenna has 28 students in her class at Empire Elementary School.

Although a study released Tuesday by the National Education Association says Nevada has the sixth-largest ratio of teachers-to-students in the nation, Mike Watty, associate superintendent for educational services, says the Carson City School District is doing well in terms of the teacher-to-student ratio.

“Obviously from our numbers, we’re in pretty good shape,” he said. “At our fifth-grade level, our district average is 24. In other classes, it’s at 20 to 22.”

Frenna, who said that fifth-grade is an important time in a student’s life because it’s a transition to middle school, receives some help from a teacher’s aide who comes into her classroom for 45 minutes in the afternoon.

“If we had more resources, all the kids would benefit,” Frenna said. “We try to optimize what we have.”

But the report ranks Nevada at an average of 19.2 students to a teacher in grade levels K-12 for the 2003-04 school year, well below Frenna’s 28.

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Watty said that can be accounted for by P.E., English-as-a-second-language, computer and other teachers, who meet with students once-a-week or more but are averaged in.

“I think I had 35 kids in my classroom when I was in school and these only have 19,” he said. “The fact of the matter is the classrooms still have 30 to 35 students, but the ratio doesn’t show that.”

Watty also said that the report’s average for Nevada may be misinterpreted by the public.

“I think it’s misleading to look at the raw number and to think John Q. Citizen thinks the teachers are sitting here with 19 students,” he said. “I want to make sure the public doesn’t think there are 19 students sitting here in front of one teacher.”

The reason Nevada ranked so high on the list, he said, may be due to Clark County, the largest school district in the state.

“As the saying goes, ‘As goes Clark, so goes the state.’ If you were to separate out the Carson City School District and calculate the ratio the same way, I’m sure it would be more close to the norm or at the national average.”

Vermont, the lowest on the list, has 10.9 students per teacher. Carson City does meet the state law for class size, with a 15-to-1 average for first and second grade and a 17-to-1 average for third grade.

The largest classes in Carson City’s school district are at Eagle Valley Middle School, Watty said.

“But we don’t begin to approach the ratios in Clark County,” Watty said. “I’ve been down visiting schools there. I counted 45 students in a science classroom.”

Frenna said she wishes she had more time to spend with students one-on-one. Having a student aide helps her accomplish that.

“There is a significant improvement from one-on-one work,” she said. “I might be able to help more students in math or in the places they need to come up to par.”

What’s disruptive is when new students come into the classroom and she spends time assimilating them.

“I feel like you can never do enough for these kids,” she said.

Contact reporter Maggie O’Neill at mo’neill@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1219.