News Story

Detroit Schools Just Aren't That Crowded

Claims of ‘militant’ teacher can’t overcome actual figures reported by district

The Detroit Free Press reported that teachers in Detroit’s public schools plan to oppose a new school calendar that adds five workdays without increasing their pay.

The story quoted a “militant” teachers union member making a claim about Detroit classroom sizes.

“The district already has terrible trouble filling its numerous vacancies, because of the low pay and difficult nature of our work,” said teacher Ben Royal. Royal is a member of Equal Opportunity Now/By Any Means Necessary, a division of the Detroit Federation of Teachers that takes a more militant stance, according to the Detroit Free Press. “This causes terrible overcrowding in many, many classrooms, which means students don’t get the attention they deserve, and student achievement declines.”

Teacher claims about overcrowded classes are not challenged by the media. Because of that, Michigan Capitol Confidential has submitted Freedom Of Information Act requests to school districts, seeking class size data. According to information provided by the Detroit Public Schools Community District, Royal’s claims of overcrowding are greatly exaggerated.

Just 4% of the classes in Detroit’s public school district held 40 or more students, according to data released this fall. That comes to 340 classes out of 8,701 classes during the 2018-19 school year. The average Detroit classroom size was 26.73 students. The basis for that average excludes 1,502 classes that have fewer than 10 students.

The largest class in the Detroit system was a team sports class, which had 107 students. The second-largest class, at 88 students, was also a team sports class. There was also a team sports class with 81 students that was the third-largest class.

Most of the Detroit classes with 40 or more students were physical education or team sports classes. The largest academic class was a humanities class at Western International High School, which had 59 students.