What’s the Perfect Student-Teacher Ratio?

The Standards for the English Language Arts specifically describe what students must learn in language classes so they can be properly prepared for the future.

The standards specifically address the obvious items, such as writing, reading, speaking, and listening. This enhanced definition of “literacy” comes at a time when employers are demanding well-trained employees with a specialized set of skills, classrooms are culturally diverse, and some schools are opting for Internet-based education.

With such a demand for quality education in the midst of all of these challenges, it becomes crucial to assess the ideal student/teacher ratio in primary and secondary classrooms.

Compared to sports

Would any football coach want to teach 150 players for only one hour each day? Is there any coach in his right mind who thinks he could develop a winning team with that formula?

Of course not. Instead, it’s best to limit the team to 40 or 50 players who demonstrate both motivation and aptitude for the game. Further, every coach should have a few assistants to work with individual players on specific elements of game play, such as kicking or quarterbacking.

In this case, the “student to teacher” ration is about 15:1. So why shouldn’t that be the plan for primary and secondary school classrooms?

NTCE primary school recommendations

At the primary level, each classroom teacher should be responsible for no more than 25 students per class. During very early primary education, including kindergarten and first grade, the teach should be responsible for no more than 20 students per class.

At least one class period per day, or at least 30 minutes each day, the primary school teacher should have the opportunity to work independently of the classroom. This time period could be for curriculum planning or grading papers.

Each month, every primary school teacher should have half a day set aside to work outside of the classroom. This time should be used for long-range curriculum development.

Every teacher should also have the opportunity to participate in programs and seminars that are meant to improve his or her skills as a teacher. Attending these programs should be considered part of the teacher’s normal workload and each teacher should have at least 3 days per year allotted to this type of development.

NCTE secondary education recommendations

During secondary education, it is recommended that states, districts, and schools adopt a policy of no more than 20 students per class. A teacher’s entire workload should consist of no more than 80 students.

Any teacher who teaches 25 students during a 50-minute class period has two minutes for one-on-one interaction with each pupil. Of course, if the class size is larger than 25 students, that amount of time is reduced.

It’s also true that the more students there are in a class, the fewer the opportunities for each one to engage in class participation. This affects oral speaking development.

Further, the more students there are in a class, the greater the amount of time required to manage the classroom rather than actually teach the subject. This obviously has an impact on educational development.

Finally, the more students that there are in a class, the less likely it is that teachers will produce lessons that encourage high-level thought. Critical thinking skills are negatively affected in large classes.


Of course, class size is not only important in primary and secondary education settings, but also in counseling sessions. People who participate in group therapy should do so within a small group, so that individual time for sharing issues and problems can be granted to each group participant. Further, the therapist will be in a better position to provide helpful advice to individuals in a smaller group setting.

Anna Johansson
Anna is a freelance writer and researcher from the Olympia, WA area who loves to obsess about weird topics and then write about them. When she isn't writing, she is outside on her bike and comtemplating her eventual trip to graduate school.

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