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Are You Making the Most Common Mistake When Picking a Preschool?

Date: December 5, 2013 Author: stagesacademy Categories: Preschool

You know, I was a parent before I owned a preschool.  I’ve researched and toured tons of preschools.  I was good.  I had my little


list of questions.  I felt well prepared.  Super Mom to the rescue!

And I remember thinking that child to teacher ratio was extremely important.  And I was making a very

common mistake.

Don’t get me wrong.  It’s important.  It’s just that ratio is mandated by the state.  Period.

In Pennsylvania the state mandated ratios are:

Similar Age Levels Staff    Children Maximum Group Size
 Infant (birth-1yr) 1  4  8
Young toddler (1 to 2) 1  5 10
Older toddler (2 to 3) 1  6 12
Preschool (3 to Kindergarten) 1 10 20
Young school-age (Kindergarten to 4th Grade ) 1 12 24
Older school-age (4th Grade to age 15) 1 15 30

So the question you should be asking is not “What is the student / teacher ratio?”  It’s “what is the maximum class size in my child’s age range?”

Here’s why:

I want you to close your eyes and think about trying to teach something important to your child.  You’re sitting quietly with them at a table and explaining to them why the letter A makes the sound at the beginning of the word “apple”.

Now I want you to picture yourself doing the same thing at a noisy, crowded playground.  You can’t even imagine trying to do that, can you?

Why not?  The student/teacher ratio hasn’t changed.  It’s still 1 to 1.  But it’s going to be a lot harder for you to teach your child with all of those distractions.  And it’s going to be much harder for your child to learn and remember what you’re teaching them.

Even putting aside the fact that the class size is not legal, I’ve heard of 19 kids in a 2 year olds’ room with three teachers.  Or a pre-K with 40 kids in the same room working with 4 teachers.  Try and get a mental picture of 40 four year old children.   The noise must be absolutely deafening.

And, worse yet, not all of the staff in the room have to be “teachers”.  Any qualified staff member works for the purposes of keeping a class “in ratio”.  Whether that is a Lead Teacher, an Assistant Teacher or an Aide makes no difference.  It’s the number of qualified adult bodies that make a ratio, not the number of teachers.

So, if ratio isn’t the right question, what questions should you be asking?  Ask how many kids are in the room.  Ask whether classes are combined for certain activities.  Ask whether you can talk to other parents in the school.  Look online and see if you can find clues to the class size.  Drop by unannounced and take a look for yourself.

You send your child to preschool because you want them to learn.  Why wouldn’t you want them to be in the best learning conditions possible?

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