Texas charter schools struggle with classroom overcrowding
By Associated Press
Jan. 9, 2018 at 5 p.m.
DALLAS — An annual report suggests several charter schools in Texas have some of the state's largest class sizes.
The Texas Education Agency report said most of the state's roughly 8,700 public schools had about 22 students per teacher during the 2016-2017 school year.
More than half the schools averaging at least 30 students per classroom were charter schools. Charters only make up about 7 percent of Texas public schools, the Dallas Morning News reported.
Charters usually run independently from traditional school districts and don't have to follow many state regulations, such as caps on class size.
Officials with the Texas Charter Schools Association said many charters use teacher aides, which can skew class-size averages. They also said larger class sizes are a result of growing demand for charters.
"Many public charter schools have not been able to expand quickly enough to enroll all who seek to attend them," the association said in a statement.
Education advocates have said that smaller class sizes significantly affect how well students learn.
But Tom Torkelson, who founded IDEA Public Schools, a nonprofit that operates charter schools, including 10 of the 34 charters with the largest average first-grade class sizes, said he doesn't think classroom size matters as much as teacher quality.
"I think if traditional school districts fired the bottom 20 percent of teachers and put more kids with the higher-performing 80 percent of teachers, you'd see a dramatic change in academics," Torkelson said. "I know that's not a popular opinion. But focusing on classroom size rather than teacher quality is a failed policy that actually drives down student performance."