Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Does Class Size Matter

School board members and superintendents often ask me my opinion on class size.  I have read the research and understand the theory behind the class size argument, but my answer is much more practical and is based on the situation.

Situation 1 (The Small School): In most small schools, class size really isn’t an issue. In many small schools, most of the classrooms have anywhere from 15 to 20 students in them at any given time.  This represents a considerable expense to the district.  The Superintendent realizes that class size can be increased to the range of 18-24, and all of a sudden the budget is balanced.  Then teachers and principals start screaming (understandably), and the Superintendent and the Board (understandably) get cold feet. 

My Answer: The measurable impact on adding six students to an already small class is negligible.  Increase the class size and spend the savings on raises for instructional staff, instructional tools and training.

Situation 2 (The Struggling School): The school is struggling, average class size is between 20 to 25, and leadership has to do something. The act of reducing class size will make a big splash. 

My Answer: If instruction is poor in a bigger class, reducing class size just means that there will be poor instruction in a smaller class.  But now it will costs more per student to deliver that poor instruction. Plus, if the reduced class size is still above 13, the reduction in class size is unlikely to make a measurable impact.  Instead, take the budget to be spent on hiring more teachers and spend that money on raises for instructional staff, instructional tools, and training.

Nine time out of ten, reducing class size is an empty exercise.

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