Catlin Gabel Attendance Steadies After Large Increase

By Sophie Peters ’16

Although individual class sizes in the Catlin Gabel Upper School are considerably smaller than most Portland public high schools, the school has seen a nearly 50% increase in students since 1990.

One of the benefits of having more students is the ability to have more class options. When Upper School head Dan Griffiths arrived in 2007 there were half as many science electives as are now available, and only two history electives.

Students during an assembly. The Upper School has grown by nearly 50% in the last 24 years. (Photo: Nico Hamacher)

Students during an assembly. The Upper School has grown by nearly 50% in the last 24 years. (Photo: Nico Hamacher)

 Head of school Lark Palma stated more reasons. “The school is more vibrant, able to offer more things, more sports and clubs and take more amazing children.” Additionally, “the school is able to hire teachers with some different points of view.”

 Griffiths also mentioned the improvement of Catlin Gabel programs. These programs include PLACE (Planning and Leadership Across City Environments), an engineering program, a robotics team, outdoor education, and more extensive college counseling. In addition, more students audition for theatrical shows, sports programs have improved, and the number of co-curricular activities has increased.

 According to Griffiths, class sizes are around 15 students this year. Though both Palma and Griffiths mentioned how there is no actual research suggesting that class sizes are best with under 20 students. Palma notes that when it comes to class size, “research says 25-28 is the sweet spot – anything under ten is not a very satisfying class, not enough catalyst and vibrancy.”

Graduating class sizes graphed by year. Data was unavailable for 1991-1994. (Graphic: Nico Hamacher)

Graduating class sizes graphed by year. Data was unavailable for 1991-1994. (Graphic: Nico Hamacher)

Science teacher, Paul Dickinson, has worked at Catlin for 44 years and spoke to CatlinSpeak about the differences that have come after adding more students to the school over the years. He notes that one major downside to having more students is the amount of cars driven to the school each day, making for a difficult parking situation on campus. Palma also mentioned the influx of cars, as well as more buses and lockers needed at the school as the number of students has grown.

Other issues with having more students at the school include the difficulty of maneuvering through the Barn during break and lunchtime and growing C&C sizes. Most teachers try to cap their C&Cs at 15 now, although some go over.

For now, however, the school is content with its size. As Palma summarizes, “There is no desire to get bigger than we are.”