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Focusing on Class Size, Professional Development

Avon, Massachusetts, school officials decided small classes combined with an extensive professional development program could help maintain high student performance on state accountability measures.

To help ensure student success, Avon, Massachusetts, school officials have attempted to keep class size at all grade levels to a maximum of 22, although there is some fluctuation in these numbers. Because of budget cuts, first grade started the 2003-04 year with two teachers, when one teacher retired and was not replaced. This decision was made even though there were 39 students anticipated for that grade level. The first grade classes were at or under 22 at the start of the school year, but additional enrollments brought that number to 24. The inclusion classroom already had a full-time aide and the support of the special education teacher.

This was not the case in the other first grade classroom; therefore, a teaching assistant, who also is certified as an elementary teacher, was hired to work in the non-inclusion classroom to accommodate the larger number of students.

Avon students have done well on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS), which took effect across the state as a graduation requirement for the class of 2003. Avon is one of only nine communities in the state where all students who had met the district's graduation requirements, including those with special needs, also earned a passing score on the test. Both of Avon's schools also have good performance records on the state's accountability system; they surpass the state averages in reading/language arts and mathematics and exceed the state's adequate yearly progress (AYP) expectations.


Avon has a major program of professional development that district officials say helps teachers understand and use data as they make decisions about curriculum and instruction. Paid for with No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) and district funds, the program also helps teachers use their newly acquired expertise to improve student instruction in writing and mathematics.

This is one of the ways that district teachers combine content and curriculum to improve overall student performance. The district's limits on class size also allow teachers to differentiate instruction across the curriculum and across the grades.

Although poverty is not extensive in Avon, the elementary school receives a small amount of Title I funds, as well as funding from other NCLB programs. Avon also has had a major professional development effort supported with funds from Titles I and II of NCLB and the district's general funds. Recently, the district chose to be part of the first cohort of Massachusetts's schools to participate in a coordination of NCLB funds. The application was time-consuming, especially for such a small district with only two district administrators, but school officials believe the added flexibility in the use of funds will work to their advantage.

SOURCE: Center on Education Policy

To read the full report, see A Look Inside 33 School Districts: Year 2 of the No Child Left Behind Act.

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