The Detroit Public Schools teacher sickouts have received national media attention for the poor conditions in which teachers say they must work. However, the claims of overcrowding in the classrooms appear to be baseless, according to class size information received from the school district under a Freedom of Information Act request.
Media reports have parents, teachers and union officials claiming classes of more than 40 students are common.
But the average, or mean, classroom size in Detroit Public Schools is 22.45 students, with the median class size at 24. The records cover 11,588 individual classes at the start of the 2015-16 school year. Of these, 562 classes — including gym classes — have 40 or more students. That's just 4.8 percent of all classes.
By comparison, Saginaw Public School District has an average class size of 21.28 students and a median of 23. Saginaw’s data was also provided in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.
“This is another myth that has been shattered,” said Gary Naeyaert, the executive director of the Great Lakes Education Project. “The class sizes are within the range of normal and what we would expect from any school system.”
The largest class in DPS was 92 students. That was a math class at Carstens Elementary-Middle School. Classes that large often are assigned multiple teachers.
Detroit Federation of Teachers administrator Ann Mitchell told ABC News teachers were upset about “bulging” classrooms.
In January, students at DPS’ Cass Tech High School walked out in support of teachers who skipped school, according to CBS Detroit. The students claimed there that were too many students in classrooms. A news report quoted a parent as saying the classes had too many students.
Cass Tech has an average class size of 28.83 students and a median size of 33 students. The only classes at Cass Tech with 50 students or more are in gym, marching band or classes for team sports.
Officials with the Detroit Federation of Teachers didn’t return emails seeking comment. The Detroit Public Schools also didn't comment.
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