Harford secondary class sizes

Bel Air Middle School has the highest average class size among Harford's middle schools, 25.7 students per class, according to a recent school system report. (MATT BUTTON, Aegis staff / January 3, 2012)

Second of two parts

The number of students in many high school classes in Harford County this school year is lower than last year, as well as five years ago.

For the county's 8,623 middle schoolers, however, classes are likely to be a little more crowded this school year than last, though less so than in 2009 and 2008.

The average class in the three middle school grades this year has 22.5 students, according to an annual report on class sizes delivered to the county school board Dec. 12.

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The average class size in the four high school grades this year has 22.2 students, according to the same report.

Both middle and high school class size averages are calculated differently from elementary school averages, because the secondary school calculations must take into account the myriad of courses being taught that differ from school to school, differences in scheduling from school to school and the impact of specialty magnet programs offered at schools like Harford Tech, Aberdeen High and Edgewood High.

As a result, the class size averages for secondary schools are tied much closer to staffing ratios than are elementary schools, where there is typically a one-to-one relationship between the teacher and a single class.

Middle school classes

The average middle school class size in Harford County's public schools in 2011 is 22.5 students, according to the latest class size report, up from 22.2 students in 2010 but lower than the averages of 20.7 students in both 2009 and 2008 and equal 2007.

There has been a steady decline in middle school enrollment over the past five years from 9,080 students in 2007 to 8,623 as of Sept. 30, 2011, about 5 percent. Over the same period there has been a corresponding drop in middle school staffing, also about 5 percent.

According to the Sept. 30, 2011 class size report, there were 536.6 teachers (general education positions that do not include counselors, special ed teachers, trades teachers, media specialists, coordinators and evaluators and therapists) assigned to the nine middle schools and alternative education center. In 2010, what the school board calls the "actual staffing" level at those schools was 545.7 positions; in 2007 the figure was 563.2 positions.

The actual staffing level refers to the gross number of teaching positions; however, those positions are also measured by what is called "adjusted staffing," which is the actual number of periods the teacher is in the classroom, as opposed to non-teaching periods.

Over the past five years, the so-called teaching ratio of actual to adjusted staffing has been a constant 0.714 (71.4 percent) at the middle school level. Adjusted staffing is used to figure the average class size in a given school.

School-by-school comparisons

According to the 2011 class size report, Bel Air Middle School, with an enrollment of 1,296 students, a staffing level of 70.6 teachers and an adjusted staffing level of 50.4, has the highest average middle school class size at 25.7 students per class.

Patterson Mill Middle (732 students and adjusted staffing level of 30.0 teachers) is next with a 24.4 students per class average. Southampton Middle, the largest school (1,276 students, adjusted staffing 53.6) has an average class size of 24.4 students.

Magnolia Middle, with 710 students, 50.5 teaching positions and adjusted staffing level of 36.1, has the smallest middle school average class size in the county at 19.7 students.

Second smallest average classes are at Edgewood Middle with 20.6 students per class (1,073 students and adjusted staffing of 52.1 positions) and Havre de Grace Middle, the smallest school in terms of enrollment, with 20.7 students per class (529 students and adjusted staffing of 25.6 positions).

The other middle school average class sizes this year are Aberdeen, 21.3 students per class; Fallston, 24.1 students per class; and North Harford, 21.6 students per class.

Middle schools with largest, smallest classes