Thursday, July 03, 2014

CLASS SIZE: Myth vs. Fact

from the Class Size Counts/Yes on Initiative i-1351 Campaign (WA) |

Myth vs. Fact


Myth: Class-size reduction is an unproven reform

FACT: Studies from Tennessee, Wisconsin and other states demonstrate that students assigned to smaller classes in K-3 do better in every measurable way.

The Institute of Education Sciences, the research arm of the U.S. Department of Education, concludes that class-size reduction is one of only four, evidence-based reforms proven to increase student achievement. The conclusion was reached following rigorous, randomized experiments  – the “gold standard” of research.

Myth: Class size matters only in the early grades

FACT: Despite the fact there have not been the type of large-scale, randomized experiments in middle and upper grades that have been done in the early grades, numerous studies indicate that smaller classes in upper grades lead to achievement gains and lower dropout rates.

One comprehensive analysis found that smaller class size is the only objective factor positively correlated with student achievement. Moreover, student achievement gains were more strongly linked to class size reduction in the upper grades than the lower grades.

Myth: Small classes didn’t make a difference in California

FACT: Every controlled study of the California class-reduction program shows significant gains from  smaller classes.

Analysis of the achievement of California students who had smaller classes for only one year compared with those in larger classes found substantial benefits, especially for students in high-poverty urban schools.

Myth: A threshold must be reached before class-size reduction works

FACT: Research has shown that no particular threshold must be reached before students begin to benefit from smaller classes.

Any reduction in class size increases the probability that students will be focused and positively engaged in learning.

Myth: Smaller classes don’t narrow the achievement gap

FACT: Those students who benefit most are those who often need the most help. Researchers have found that children from poor and minority backgrounds experience twice the gains from class-size reduction as other students.

Though minority students benefit the most from smaller classes, they are more likely to be enrolled in classes of 25 or more. And the gap in class size between schools with high- and low minority populations has increased in recent years.

Myth: Class-size reduction is too expensive

FACT: Economists have detailed the benefits of smaller classes, concluding that they far outweigh the costs.

Smaller classes result in higher graduation rates and higher post-secondary educational attainment. This, in turn, results in higher earnings, less reliance on welfare and lower rates of incarceration. 

Public health researchers even project that small class sizes result in reduced health care costs and greater longevity.

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