Every morning at PS 148 in East Elmhurst, Queens, teacher Monique Bertolotti greets her 27 third graders, who speak English as a second language, with a reading exercise.
Classes began on Sept. 13, but because of the volume of students in her class, it was only Wednesday -- three weeks later -- that Bertolotti got to sit down with two new Colombian students, Nicole and Amy, to help them acclimate.
"Normally I would have sat down earlier to do an interview," Bertolotti said. "But there are just so many students." Her school lost $600,000 and eight teachers this year due to budget cuts.
"My situation isn't as bad as my colleagues'," Bertolotti continued. Next door, Joan Barnett has 32 third graders in a classroom without desks. "Really getting to small group instruction is harder," Barnett said.
According to the most recent national data available from the Education Department, student-teacher ratio declined from 22.3 in 1970 to 13.1 in 2008, when class sizes averaged at 20 in elementary schools and 23.4 in secondary schools.