Michigan Class Sizes Hard to Find, So Public Radio Reports Opinions

The facts are available, but not easy to collect

Visitors to Michigan Radio’s website might have expected to find information on class sizes in article titled, “What is the average class size in Michigan's schools?”

That's not what they would have found. Instead of answering that question, the article reported that the statewide ratio of Michigan public school teachers to Michigan public school students is 23 to 1. But this says very little about how many students per teacher are in the average classroom statewide or in any one district.

The public radio network explained that “Pinning down the average class size in Michigan's public schools is not an easy thing to do.”

So, it chose to just ask teachers their opinions of what the average class size might be.

The answers included responses like this one from an anonymous Detroit Public Schools teacher: "It's exhausting and limiting."

ForTheRecord says: The public radio network’s website report is correct: Average class size information for Michigan is not easily available. The information must be obtained directly from individual school districts.

This is what Michigan Capitol Confidential did for a sample of school districts at the beginning of the 2015-16 school year, obtaining the information through Freedom of Information Act requests.

For example, the average, or mean, classroom size in Detroit Public Schools was 22.45 students. The median class size was 24. The FOIA covered 11,588 individual classes at the start of the 2015-16 school year. There were 562 classes — including gym, music and sports classes — that had 40 or more students. That's just 4.8 percent of all classes.

Michigan Capitol Confidential also received records on class sizes for Saginaw Public School District in 2015-16. Saginaw has an average class size of 21.28 students and a median of 23.