Beaufort County schools report low numbers for this statistic — but that’s a good thing

Beaufort County School District average class sizes are smaller than national and state averages for high school, middle school and elementary school, according to a recent BCSD Report.

Class size is an important determinant of student outcomes, and increasing class size harms student outcomes, according to the National Education Policy Center.

Smaller class sizes have higher levels of student engagement, increased time on task and better opportunity for teachers to tailor instruction to students, according to the center.

Third-grade teacher Amanda Dudas helps a student on Monday, Aug. 15, 2022, bring a 3-dimensional heart back to their screen while using a pencil-sized stylus on the first day of school at Mossy Oaks Elementary School.

The school district report showed that for Beaufort County high schools the average class size is:

  • 20.3 for social studies courses

  • 19.9 for English courses

  • 19.7 for math courses

  • 13.1 for science courses

The National Center for Education Statistics data reports an average class size of 23.3 for U.S. public high schools and 22 for South Carolina public high schools.

In the high school report, there are some data points that show one-student courses, which can be attributed to “split rosters,” meaning students at different levels are in the same class together.

“It is possible that in one class period you have students from, for example, Journalism I, Journalism II, Journalism III,” Superintendent Frank Rodriguez said at a school board meeting Wednesday.

One-person classes were excluded when calculating averages to prevent skewing.

The school district report showed that, for Beaufort County middle schools, the average class size is:

  • 18.5 for social studies courses

  • 20 for English courses

  • 19.3 for math courses

  • 20.1 for science courses

The NCES reports an average class size of 24.9 for U.S. public middle schools and 21.9 for South Carolina public middle schools.

“We haven’t had information like that before that is so specific,” said school board member Patricia Fidrych at a school board meeting Wednesday.

For Beaufort County elementary schools, the report showed the average class size was 16.7. The NCES reports an average class size of 26.2 for U.S. public elementary schools and 32.9 for South Carolina public elementary schools.

Smaller class size especially helps low-income and minority children, while larger class sizes especially harms these children, according to the NEPC.

About 30 percent of BCSD students are minorities and 15.4 percent of student families are below the poverty level, according to most recent NCES data.

The school board said they will use this data as a starting point for assessing needs.

“This is just the start. This is the first shot at looking at the data. We need to look at the demographics. We need to look at the quality to see that the quality of teachers is equality distributed,” school board member Richard Geier said. “We need to look at the cost per student. We’re not done with this by any means.”