Study finds limits to class-size reduction reform
Education Week is reporting on a new study suggesting that class-size reduction "might not necessarily reduce the achievement gaps that exist between students in a given classroom." (A summary of the article is here; sorry, you'll need an EdWeek registration to get the whole thing.) The study found that class-size reducation can improve test scores overall.
In my eight years as an education reporter, I've seen mixed results of class-size reduction initiatives. I was working in California after that state mandated caps of 20 students in kindergarten through third-grade classes. The result at first was an acute teacher shortage, and schools found themselves hiring teachers they wouldn't have otherwise. In addition, many of the best teachers in low-performing districts left to fill the new job openings in more affluent, higher-performing schools.
Ideally, of course, every child would be in a small class with a great teacher. But few parents would choose a small class with a mediocre or lousy teacher over a big class with a great teacher. On the other hand, class size is one of the biggest factors predicting teachers' satisfaction in their jobs. And if that great teacher with a big class gets burnt out and quits, then everyone loses out. Having small classes seems particularly important to English teachers and others who spend a lot of time on every paper they grade.
I'd be interested to hear from teachers about how your class sizes have impacted not only your personal satisfaction in your job, but also your students' achievement. Does the study's conclusion ring true?
You can find more information here on Project STAR, the Tennessee class-size reduction initiative on which the study is based.