This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
by Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks
The Philadelphia School District has been "leveled."
As a result, the District has reduced the number of its controversial split-grade classrooms, made up of students in different grades, from about 100 to 50.
With leveling, the District aligns staffing projections made in the summer with enrollment realities in the fall.
If more students show up at a school than the District had projected, and fewer students show up at another school, the District shuffles faculty from one to the other in an attempt to keep student-to-teacher ratios within the contracted maximums.
The District’s contract with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers stipulates that kindergarten through 3rd-grade teachers should have no more than 30 students, and teachers in grades 4 through 12 should have no more than 33.
This year – in the wake of layoffs and turnover, which have reduced the District’s staff by about 3,000 – students, parents and faculty at schools across the District expressed grievances over a host of academic issues, including split-grade classrooms and class sizes that have far exceeded contractual maximums.
To address both issues, the District has transferred 139 teachers while hiring an additional 29.
Last school year, 82 teachers were transferred during the leveling process and 42 teachers were added.
Although leveling is now complete, District officials could not confirm how many classes will remain above contracted-maximum levels.
"While the overall level of changes is slightly higher than last year, this process will relieve overcrowding in several schools, providing better learning environments for our students," said Philadelphia Schools Superintendent William Hite. "Leveling is an opportunity to address enrollment concerns early in the school year."