The community of Rowntree Montessori Schools is rooted in a value system which focuses primarily on the safety, well-being, academic growth, and overall happiness of each student. We are a faculty who acknowledges that each student is an individual, with specific learning needs, challenges, strengths, and skills. We aim to teach the whole child, in order to nurture academic and personal growth and development, so that each individual student will be better prepared for a secondary and post-secondary education, career establishment, and global citizenship. At Rowntree, our educators’ goal is to ensure that each student is engaged, supported, and challenged because this sets the standard for comprehensive, sustainable school improvement, and provides for long-term student success. But in order to be able to teach the whole child, we must know our students, and know them well. This is harder to address with large class sizes. This is why, at Rowntree, our commitment to keeping our student to teacher ratio low better serves the needs of our students.
A major parental concern brought to our attention, especially during our Open Houses, is the complaint over class sizes in the public system, and in some other private schools. Parents are extremely concerned that their children are being overlooked, not being supervised safely, that individual needs are not being addressed, and that their teachers do not really “know” their child. And how can they? It is very hard to meet the needs of each child when they are placed within a large class group. The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (a professional organization made up of elementary teachers) has tried to influence legislators for smaller class sizes because research has shown that when placed in small class settings, students receive higher grades on reading and mathematics tests, participate to a greater extent, and require less disciplinary measures. This may be due to the teacher being able to structure lessons and differentiate evaluation approaches based on individual needs, which can be better determined when there are fewer students in a class to assess. Student-teacher bonds can be better established, and thus students may feel more comfortable and willing to contribute their ideas and answers more independently in class, which also allows for further evaluation. The teacher is also able to better monitor the class, and address areas of concern with regards to behaviour and social interaction, if and when needed.
However, the Ontario government has not adopted the ETFO’s proposal for smaller class sizes. Furthermore, the government has not even put a cap size on the new Full Day Early Learning Kindergarten Program (ELKP). The government has only suggested that there be an average of 26 students per ELKP class across the school boards. It is very pertinent to point out one major problem with such a regulation based on averages is it results in class sizes often not being equal in board schools; they vary between different school boards and between individual schools within a board as well as from school year to school year. For example, one class could have a significantly larger number of students, while in contrast another class may have a disproportionately smaller number.
At Rowntree Montessori Schools, we pride ourselves in maintaining small class sizes whereby our educators can identify, meet, and challenge each student’s individual learning needs. We know our students well, and we engage with parents regarding the academic and social success of their children on a frequent basis through notes in the students’ daily agendas, phone calls home, and meetings which are welcomed and encouraged at any time, not just on parent-teacher evenings. Here, we function as a tightly knit group—a family—as many of our students, parents, and staff fondly refer to us. Our low student to teacher ratio allows us as educators to develop meaningful lessons, teach to each student’s learning requirements, identify areas which need improvement, further student learning, provide a well-disciplined and safe learning environment, and create lasting and meaningful bonds with our students.
We look forward to seeing you and sharing with you the private school community of which we are so proud!