Superintendent Sills Unravels Misleading Class Size Report

By Kim Siebert MacPhail

At the School Committee meeting on December 4, Superintendent Jon Sills spoke about a bar graph that had been published in the West supplement of the Boston Globe on November15, comparing class sizes in school districts in the metro west area. The graph indicated that Bedford averages about15 students per class, a number that does not reflect reality, especially considering current issues with over-enrolled courses at Bedford High School and in certain elementary classes.

“Bedford appeared to have very a favorable class size ratio compared to other districts. We’ve done some analysis of those numbers and it turns out their figures are comparing apples and oranges and don’t pan out,” Sills said.

Sills went on to explain that although the numbers were taken from official district reports to the Department of Education—and are accurate from that standpoint—the discrepancy lies in how each community or district tallies its class numbers.

“I’ll give you the example of Weston, which is a comparably sized district,” Sill explained. “According to this calculus, it has a much higher class-size ratio [than Bedford]. They report, for their population of 2,361 students, only 718 classes. For our 2,400 students, we report 1,183 classes. Either they’re under-reporting or we’re over-reporting but it’s not a valid comparison.

Wayland—also a similar size to Bedford—reports only 934 classes, a number that is higher than Weston’s, but still much lower than Bedford’s.

“These are not valid comparisons,” Sills said with a chuckle. “We’re going to do some more digging, but we think what’s happening is that we’re reporting every single class and they aren’t. I will get you some more information, but I just think it’s important to note that those figures are skewed.”

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