The Academy of American Studies, although intended to be a small party with a short guest list, has exceeded its own expectations with the number of admitted students. Although the amount of students in classrooms has shown little change, the general population has increased quite a bit in recent years. If you were to turn back the clock on the Academy of American Studies, you would see significant difference in the number of students. You might have been able to walk through the hallways and not rub against the shoulder of at least five other people. The 2008-2009 school year saw the Academy’s student population at approximately 600, according to the New York City Department of Education’s website. It begs the question, why so many?
Discussing admittance with the principal gave very valuable insight into the high school admissions process, and unexpected flashbacks of combing through the High School Directory. “It’s not a perception that we are overcrowded”, he said in response to the growing feeling of an overcrowded Academy, “We are overcrowded”. Principal Bassell was very clear in outlining the role of the Department of Education. “We admit 170 students per year with the expectation that we will receive closer to 200…”, he continued, “In recent years, more students have accepted the offer than the DOE’s initial calculation”. The increase in general student population, is simply a matter of Academy’s rising popularity.
The United Federation of Teachers (UFT), has set guidelines regarding the nature of their contracts. In the state of New York, the maximum class sizes within traditional classrooms cannot exceed 34 students per 1 teacher. “Smaller class sizes are easier to teach because there are less bodies in the room”, says one science teacher. When asked specifically about ease of instruction, she claimed, “I feel that classroom instruction is more intimate, more focused”. Classroom management, a crucial skill for any grade school teacher, is affected primarily by the dynamic of the students within the room of instruction. The number of students in the room attributes to this. “The more kids, the more chances for kids to be acting in ways that need to be corrected”, says she, “Larger classes are harder to control than smaller ones”. But most importantly, “Every class is different”, and in her experience, it has always been about seeing the brightness in students, and observing how they learn, how they analyze, and how they grow intellectually, as well as socially. Classroom size at the Academy of American Studies has remained relatively static, but a growing general population attributes to the growing sense of volume in the building.
Have you ever had a problem not being able to make it in class on time due to the amount of students entering and exiting the school? Are you feeling squished in your own gym class? Well, at the Academy of American Studies many students define this as an overcrowded school. In this case, do you believe that overcrowded schools affect students’ education? Studies show that the average student daydreams or loses focus in class 15% of the time according to the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD). While at the Academy, it does not exceed its limit of 34 students per classroom, students continue to argue that it feels as if they are being squished in a small space. A senior shared her comments on the changes she saw throughout the four years she’s been at the Academy of American Studies. Tenzin Chimi said, “It’s been difficult to get from one class to another due to the amount of students in this school, I end up being late to my first or second period class because it’s a hassle to get into the building, it wasn’t like this my freshmen year.” At the Academy, the teachers give you five minutes to get to class, but according to Tenzin it takes her about ten minutes to enter the building and another 3-5 minutes going up the stairs. She believes this issue is detrimental to student learning, not because they aren’t concentrating, but because of the time they need to take to arrive at their classrooms. Seniors said that the difference from their freshmen year to their senior year was an enormous change, but the Freshmen perspective gives different insight.
Harpreet Kaur a current ninth grader was asked how many students are in her Gym class. She responded with 200 students. When asked if she ever felt uncomfortable with 200 students in one class room, she responded with, “It’s unusual, I’ve never felt so close to someone till I enter my gym class”. Harpreet continued to explain how her transition from middle school to her high school was different, but she doesn’t believe it effects her education. The seniors who have been at the Academy for four years believe otherwise due to the change they have experienced throughout the years. So, is the Academy of American Studies really overcrowded or are the students simply not adjusting? Perhaps it is a matter of perspective.
Written by Artie Street and Tatiana Garcia