Overcrowding and School Culture in New York City

NESRI recently released the report “Teachers Talk: School Culture, Safety and Human Rights.” Teachers surveyed in New York City schools reported that under-resourced and overcrowded classrooms contribute to destructive school climates that threaten the human right to education and the ability of teachers to develop positive relationships with their students. Without those positive relationships, more disciplinary problems arise in the classroom. Teachers advocated for smaller class sizes and human rights-based approaches to discipline that prevent conflict and teach positive behavior skills. NESRI’s intern, Madelyn Moore, shares her perspective on the impact of overcrowding as a current New York City high school student.

My experience with overcrowded schools

My name is Madelyn Moore and I have been going to New York City schools since pre-K. I’m now in the ninth grade and yes, I have been in some overcrowded schools. When I was in middle school I had a total of 35 students in my class. The law states the maximum number of students per teacher is 34 in New York State, and New York City and State have set the goal of having no more than 23 students in classes in middle or high schools. But that wasn’t the case in my school.

For example, one time I was in math and I arrived a few minutes late and I asked the teacher, “Where am I supposed to sit? My seat is taken and there are no more seats open in this class.”

And my teacher said, “That’s what you get for being late.”

And I said, “Well… there should be a seat for me in my math class, and no, its not my fault. It’s the schools’ fault for putting so many kids in one class.”

And he still said, “Well, come on time next time.”

And I said, “Whatever, where am I supposed to sit?”

And he said, “Well, sit in the back on the counter.”

And I said to myself, “This is ridiculous. Its not even my fault. Yeah, I was late, but being punished and not having a seat to sit at in math class is a problem.”

Then another student came in and she had to sit on the counter with me. The state has an issue that needs to be fixed right now!

I think this really does affect student learning. That day I felt like I really didn’t learn as much as I would usually learn if I had my seat in math. Now that I’m in high school and go to a new school I find that I’m learning much more. This new high school only has the ninth grade. Every year they will be adding one grade level. So my class, the class of 2012, right now the whole school has 105 students which means smaller classes. I find that I’m much closer to my teachers which helps for safety reasons and for learning as well. I feel that I’m learning things I couldn’t learn with so many more students in my class, which I like. I know everyone and I’m always around a friendly face which is pretty cool.

Madelyn Moore