In late September, State Superintendent Mike Flanagan said in a press release that there was a “dramatic teacher shortage” causing large classroom sizes in Detroit Public Schools. Flanagan called on businesses, career professionals and the state Legislature to help.

A review of the number of teachers relative to the student enrollment in DPS, however, doesn’t paint a picture of a teacher shortage.

Detroit Public Schools has one classroom teacher for every 16.65 students, a ratio that is a little higher than the state average but lower than higher performing school districts.

Teacher-to-student ratios are not the same as class sizes, but it does shed light on the resources a school has to address staffing of classrooms.

In 2014-15, Detroit Public Schools has 2,836 classroom teachers and 47,238 students, or one teacher for every 16.65 students, according to documents received in a Freedom of Information Act request that were also verified by DPS spokesman Steven Wasko.

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In 2013-14, DPS had 3,088 teachers and 49,870 students. Although the district shed 255 teachers since last school year, it also lost 2,632 students. The state average is one teacher for every 15.57 students.

That DPS teacher-to-student ratio is lower than Chandler Park Academy in Harper Woods, which had one teacher for every 19.8 students and Knapp Charter Academy in Grand Rapids, which had one teacher for every 18.3 students in 2013-14. Those two charters public schools are among the best performing schools in the state, according to the MDE’s own Top-To-Bottom rankings.

Other large districts in the state have larger ratios than DPS. Utica Community Schools has one teacher for every 19.1 students and Warren Consolidated Schools had one teacher for every 17.2 students in 2013-14.

“There are quality charter schools in the Detroit area with higher student-to-teacher ratios that are growing and posting better academic results,” said Audrey Spalding, education policy director at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. “The number of teachers per student is less important than whether the district is managed effectively.”

The MDE press release also stated, “Flanagan was responding to a media story over the weekend that reported Detroit Public Schools (DPS) having over 100 teacher vacancies that are resulting in classroom sizes of up to 45-50 students.”

The Michigan Department of Education did not respond to a request for comment.

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See also:

Mythbusted: Overcrowding in Detroit Classrooms

Detroit Public Schools: Doubles the Number of $100K-Plus Employees From 2009 to 2010

Who Are the $100K-Plus Employees at the Detroit Public Schools?

Analysis: Detroit Public Schools Students Bear the Pain of Limited Educational Opportunities

Shrinking Detroit Schools

School Districts Ignoring Labor Market Signals


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