Duval County's class-size fine down by 80%

(Donna Krache/CNN)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Florida Department of Education released the final class size penalty figures, revealing a significant decrease for Duval County Public Schools.

Last year, the school district faced a penalty of $1.5 million after appeals. This school year the penalty was about $300,000.

"Reducing the penalty this past year was accomplished through extensive work completed by principals and school and district staff," said Superintendent Nikolai P. Vitti. "Last year, the board and I made a commitment to reduce the penalty and be in fuller compliance with the class size mandate. The savings will mitigate the anticipated revenue loss from charter school enrollment on the district-wide budget."

During the 2013-14 school year, Duval County schools increased the number of classes in compliance by 15 percentage points from 80 percent in 2012-13 to 95 percent in 2013-14. This is the highest compliance rate the district has accomplished since compliance was measured at the classroom level rather than the school level in 2010-11.

The district went from 8,483 sections out of compliance in 2012-13 to 1,075 sections in 2013-14, an 87 percent decrease.

Moving into 2014-15, the board and superintendent said the focus on class sizes will shift to the school level as a result of the new theme status of all district schools. This strategy will allow schools to focus on reducing the teacher-to-student ratio in all classes, not just those mandated by the state to meet class size.

"Despite reducing class sizes in those classes mandated by the state to be lower, we listened to stakeholders this past year who felt that the logistics that must be used to make class size at the classroom level district-wide was too disruptive to the learning environment," said Vitti. "By making class size at the school average, we will limit the disruption at the school level with less movement of teachers and students from one classroom to another."