Seattle Public Schools

Class Size Adjustments

Summary: Seattle Public Schools adjusts staff assignments based on the number of students enrolled in schools. On Oct. 12 we added an FAQ.

Seattle Public Schools Classroom and Staff Adjustments

Annual Fall Staffing Adjustments to School Staffing

Every year, Seattle Public Schools adjusts staff assignments based on the number of students enrolled in schools. This process affects multiple schools every year.   

Funding for school staff is based on student enrollment. This staffing adjustment is a task that all Washington school districts must complete to be sure the number of educators matches the number of students in each school. 

We understand moving educators is challenging for students, families, and staff. Each staffing adjustment decision is made thoughtfully to minimize disruption. 

  • No teacher will lose their position with the district due to staffing adjustments.
  • For some schools, they may receive an increase in staff to accommodate additional students.  
  • For other schools, staff may be moved to another building because their final enrollment was lower than predicted.   

Twice a year, we project student enrollment figures for the coming school year. These figures are important because they help us anticipate state funding and allow us to hire staff for each school.  

The enrollment adjustment is a process all districts statewide use to match the number of teachers with the actual student enrollment at each school.   

To stabilize staffing and classrooms as soon as possible, we use the headcount from the sixth day of school as the official enrollment.

K-5 Grade Class Size Adjustments to Align with State Early Learning Educator-Student Ratios

Posted: Oct. 6, 2023

To focus on early learning, Washington state law encourages school districts to staff kindergarten through third grade at a smaller class size.

Seattle Public Schools (SPS) values smaller class sizes for our youngest learners. Our review showed a staffing imbalance that needs to be corrected to meet state requirements at several schools.

What this means for Students and Families

To balance our educator staffing, some students may be moved to new classrooms or have a new teacher by the end of October.

If this adjustment means a change for your elementary or K-8 school, you would have received a separate message from your principal.

Why is this year different?

In previous years, SPS was able to provide extra funding to schools to minimize classroom staffing assignment changes. However, due to the current budget shortfall, SPS is unable to cover that cost for the 2023-24 school year.

The focus is on maintaining the 17:1 staffing ratio for K-3 general education classrooms to secure full state funding. This is a districtwide ratio that includes the classroom teacher and additional educators such interventionists and specialists. 

To ensure SPS is eligible to receive $3.6 million in Washington state funding, we must have appropriate staff-student ratios for our elementary grade classrooms.

We recognize staff and classroom assignment changes during the school year may cause anxiety and frustration for families. We are working with our district leadership and principals to minimize disruption and make these adjustments as early in the school year as possible.

Staffing Ratio Process Steps

Here are steps SPS is taking to maintain a specific staffing ratio for K-3 general education to receive full funding, as described by Washington state law (RCW 28A.150.260): 

  • Annual Reporting: SPS submits an annual S-275 form to OSPI, which assesses the K-3 staffing ratio districtwide. This report considers various positions, including classroom teachers, specialists, and interventionists funded through basic education to support K-3 students. 
  • Budget Changes: During the previous budget cycle, SPS experienced reductions in buffer staffing. 
  • 2023-24 School Year Review: SPS recently reviewed classroom configurations for the 2023-24 school year and found that several schools did not align with the K-3 and 4-5 staffing allocations. This misalignment could put approximately $3.6 million in state funding at risk. 
  • Corrective Measures: SPS is actively working to correct staffing assignments to align with the budget and ensure compliance with the required K-3 class size ratios to maintain full state funding. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Seattle Public Schools received feedback from many families and community members expressing concern and frustration about the recent shifts in school staffing. District staff are listening and recognize that changes made during the school year are challenging and tough for families. However, school leaders are doing their best to minimize disruption to students. In a commitment to transparency, the district is providing more details on how we arrived at these decisions.   

Why are school staffing changes happening? 

Staffing changes in schools usually occur for two primary reasons.  

  1. Annual Adjustments: The first reason is the fluctuating student population in each school, which can lead to the addition or relocation of staff to accommodate the changing numbers of students. Enrollment projections drafted in late winter and updated in spring are used to determine school staffing for the following school year, but staffing adjustments may occur at schools each fall based on actual enrollment. 
  1. Fall 2023: The second reason for this year is tied to specific state funding models aimed at maintaining a low student-to-staff ratio in K-3 classrooms. The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) provides additional funding to keep K-3 student-to-teacher ratios lower. SPS made the decision to adjust the K-3 ratios in order to capture approximately $3.6 million in revenue from the state.  

We understand moving educators is challenging for students, families, and staff. The district’s enrollment planning teams work with principals to make adjustments as early in the school year as possible. Learn more about enrollment projections.

Is the annual staffing adjustment different that the K-3 funding allocation staff changes? 

Every year, Seattle Public Schools adjusts staff assignments based on the number of students enrolled in schools. This process affects multiple schools every year. This is different than the changes to align with the state’s K-3 funding allocated to schools, but those two issues are occurring simultaneously. 

Funding for school staff is based on student enrollment. This staffing adjustment is a task that all Washington school districts complete to be sure the number of educators reflects the number of students in each school. 

Several schools saw changes this fall to their staff assignments in general education, special education, or multilingual classroom because of our annual process of evaluating the number of students enrolled in their school.  

Key points about the annual staffing adjustments: 

  • Some schools may receive an increase in staff to accommodate additional students.  
  • For other schools, staff may be moved to another building because their final enrollment was lower than predicted.   
  • These changes are NOT due to the K-3 student-staff ratio changes required for state funding. This process happens annually in October. 

What is the state funding allocation for K-3 class size ratio? How did it affect teacher assignments and classroom configuration? 

This fall, some schools are seeing classroom educator assignment changes to maintain a specific staffing ratio for K-3 general education to receive full funding, as described by Washington state law (RCW 28A.150.260). 

SPS recently reviewed classroom configurations for the 2023-24 school year and found that several schools did not align with the K-3 and 4-5 staffing allocations. 

In previous years, SPS was able to provide extra funding to schools to minimize classroom staffing assignment changes. However, due to the current budget shortfall, SPS is unable to cover that cost for the 2023-24 school year.   

Does SPS have enough teachers? Is this change because of a teacher shortage? 

These changes are not related to unfilled teaching positions. 

The K-3 ratio changes do not increase or decrease the total number of teachers in a school building. The changes impact the number of teachers supporting K-3 students. OSPI) provides additional funding to keep K-3 student-to-teacher ratios lower. This often means that our 4th and 5th-grade classes are notably larger than K-3 classes. 

What is a split class? 

A split class includes students from multiple grade levels. Typically, they will include two adjacent grade levels. 

How will this change affect students? 

To balance our educator staffing, some students may be moved to new classrooms or have a new teacher by the end of October. While we know this change may be disruptive, we are working to make the change as early in the school year as possible rather than waiting for later this year.  

We cannot say with certainty how these changes affect students. However, we are confident that our school leaders and educators will provide high quality instruction and learning experiences for our students.   

If this adjustment means a change for your elementary or K-8 school, you would have received a separate message from your principal. 

Why does my student’s class have more than 17 students? 

The 17:1 staffing ratio for K-3 general education classrooms is a districtwide ratio that includes the classroom teacher and additional educators such as interventionists and specialists. 

How is SPS addressing equity for schools? 

One example of equity being addressed in schools specific to the K-3 staffing ratio is reflected in the weighted staffing standards. SPS funds additional teachers in K-3 classrooms for schools with higher poverty levels. 

Elementary General Education Teacher Funding Ratios

Gradenon-high povertyhigh poverty
greater than 40%
very high poverty
greater than 75%
Kindergarten20:118:118:1
1st Grade21:118:118:1
2nd Grade22:120:118:1
3rd Grade24:120:118:1
4th Grade28:128:128:1
5th Grade28:128:128:1

How are the annual staffing allocations generated?  

Once the student enrollment projections are finalized, data is sent to the budget team. The budget team uses the same Weighted Student Staffing (WSS) formula to generate staffing allocations. School leaders and central staff are represented on the WSS team and each year the formula is reviewed and revised.   

How are the student enrollment projections calculated?   

The staffing process starts in the winter, when a cross-functional team predicts the following school year’s student enrollment. The team considers:  

  • population   
  • registration   
  • birth rates   
  • economic trends   
  • housing   
  • neighboring district trends  
  • opening of new SPS schools, and more  

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