Learning curve - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Education

Learning curve

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Posted: Thursday, August 30, 2007 11:00 pm

In the spring of last year, Kyrene School District Superintendent David Schauer bravely announced Kyrene would see increased enrollment in the 2007-08 school year. For many, this statement was a hard one to grasp. But Tuesday night the district celebrated as Dr. Gina Taylor announced an enrollment increase of about the size of a classroom at the KSD board meeting. "It's a brave statement to say when our neighbors are declining (in student enrollment)," Taylor said during a welcome back presentation. "Both Tempe Elementary and Tempe Union have had a couple hundred student decline, and we have seen a decline over the last six years as well, but we have declared that we aren't going to see that anymore." KSD has Arizona's Open Enrollment Act to thank for much of their success. Currently, 3,226 students choose Kyrene schools that live outside the district's boundaries, an increase of 453 students from last year. "We have a very liberal open enrollment law in the state of Arizona," Taylor said. "The equivalent of those 3,226 students is three schools of a middle school size or five of some of our smaller elementary schools. It is a significant number of students if we were to look at them as how many schools we are talking about." The funding generated by open enrollment students attending Kyrene schools is about $17 million; a significant impact on the district's budget. However, board president Sue Knudson reminds administration to keep an eye on class sizes. It seems honors classes are typically very large, she said. KSD has 19 elementary schools and six middle schools. In the elementary schools, most class sizes are under the target range until fourth our fifth grade, where override money no longer supports class sizes. "We love the fact that we have low class sizes to support our primary age students," Taylor said. However, 15 percent of fifth grade classrooms are over the target range. Instructional support has been added to those classrooms, and class sizes are currently being watched by a staffing committee. "Now in middle school there are a variety of class sizes because one of the things we value is choices," Taylor said. "Some of the classes being over their target range is absolutely not a bad thing. (For instance) the band having more than 31 students is preferable." Taylor said large classes are being watched, and additional support has been added to classrooms where it seemed beneficial to students. Corinne Frayer can be reached at (480) 898-7917 or cfrayer@aztrib.com.

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