Student-Teacher Ratio in Northfield – Someone’s Numbers are Off

Bert Sperling has been generating “best places” lists for some time now. His lists are deemed more accurate and credible than many, owing to the proprietary algorithms he uses in calculating a number of weighted factors. Sperling is co-author of the book Cities Ranked and Rated, and regularly produces lists for Money magazine, USA today, and many others.

I take all lists and rankings with several very large grains of salt, but I was curious: What does Sperling have to say about Northfield?

According to the Northfield entry on Sperling’s website:

Northfield public schools spend $5,704 per student. The average school expenditure in the U.S. is $6,058. There are about 17 students per teacher in Northfield…. 455 students per librarian, and 621 children per counselor in Northfield, MN schools.

Any ideas where the 17 students per teacher comes from? I’ve heard increasing complaints over the past few years about class sizes getting too big. What could be throwing off those numbers? Are there teachers on the school district payroll who aren’t actually in the classroom? What’s the real student-teacher ratio at Northfield’s schools, and whose numbers should we believe?


  1. Linda Seebach said:

    I’d like each of the school board candidates to answer these questions, too. Are the Northfield numbers right? If they’re wrong, what are the right numbers? Where on the district’s web site can voters find the information to figure it out for themselves?

    October 7, 2008
  2. Curt Benson said:

    The numbers might be “right”, but it would be more relevant to find out how many students there are in a typical class. Simply dividing the number of students by the number of teachers doesn’t mean much. Teachers have prep time. Some teachers share a position with another teacher. Special ed teachers teach in small groups and sometimes one to one. I know there has been an increased demand for English as a Second language classes lately. I assume, but don’t know for sure, that these classes have a smaller number of students. A school board member told me that 15% of Northfield’s kindergarten students are now English as a Second Language (if that’s the correct term) students.

    I’ve believe a typical high school class runs in the 30s. Some classes have more that 40, I believe.

    October 7, 2008
  3. Ray Cox said:

    I don’t doubt that the figures are correct. As Curt noted, the figure is simply a division of all licensed staff divided by all students. I seem to remembe when I was on the school board we had a ratio of about 17 or 18 most years. But you have to remember the teacher ratio includes all teachers on the payroll….special education, ESL, Title 1, etc. General class size can creep up in a school district while the teacher student ratio remains fairly constant due to the specialties being addressed.

    October 7, 2008

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