EDUCATION + SCHOOLS

Utah class sizes are the largest in the nation. What does that mean for students?

Jan 22, 2024, 11:00 AM

Teacher Stacey Johnsen works with her students at Daybreak Elementary Monday, Feb. 25, 2013....

Teacher Stacey Johnsen works with her students at Daybreak Elementary Monday, Feb. 25, 2013. (Scott G. Winterton/Deseret News)

(Scott G. Winterton/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — According to the University of Utah, Utah class sizes are the highest in the nation. The report addresses class sizes of K-12 schools. 

According to a report published by the university, Utah’s ratio is 22.4 students to one teacher. The national average is 15.4 students to one teacher, according to the data collected in 2021. 

 “[It] creates less flexibility to increase class sizes if a teaching position goes unfilled,” according to the study.  

In addition to less flexibility in the case of a vacant position, larger class sizes can negatively impact student learning. 

Large class sizes impact learning 

According to Mary Burbank, the director of the University of Utah’s Urban Institute for Teacher Education, larger class sizes can make it harder for teachers to give their students the support they need. 

“As teachers gain that information on how their students are doing, they are able then, theoretically, to customize instruction build-in support, work one-on-one with individuals and with small groups,” said Burbank. 

Additionally, the National Council of Teachers of English said that students are more likely to participate in smaller classes. Participation and interaction is a key element of the learning process. 

According to The Three Types of Interaction, a 1989 editorial by Michael Moore of Penn State’s College of Education, “interacting with content … results in changes in the learner’s understanding, the learner’s perspective, or the cognitive structures of the learner’s mind.” 

The University of Utah report said that Utah’s school districts have lower teacher job vacancy rates than other states. However, Burbank said that Utah class sizes still need to be “significantly decreased.” 

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Utah class sizes are the largest in the nation. What does that mean for students?