Does Class Size Matter?

Yes! This may (should) seem obvious. A teacher can give each student more attention in a smaller class. But, education reformers often suggest that all that’s needed to “improve” schools is a few great teachers. Let those “great ones” teach MORE kids and see test scores soar.


I have a child in elementary school. Not once have I said, “Boy, I wish there were MORE kids in her class so she got less personal attention.” Private schools often tout a low teacher-student ratio as a reason for the high cost of tuition.

Now, there’s some analysis of research that suggests what most of us know: Class size matters. More specifically, smaller class sizes are better learning environments.

Valerie Strauss in the Washington Post has more:

A new review of the major research that has been conducted on class size by Northwestern University Associate Professor Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach and published by the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado Boulder makes clear that class size matters, and it matters a lot.

Strauss pulls out the key findings, including:

Class size is an important determinant of student outcomes, and one that can be directly determined by policy. All else being equal, increasing class sizes will harm student outcomes.

The mechanisms at work linking small classes to higher achievement include a mixture of higher levels of student engagement, increased time on task, and the opportunity small classes provide for high-quality teachers to better tailor their instruction to the students in the class.

Yes, investing in smaller class size means hiring more teachers and building more classrooms, but it’s an investment that pays off over time.

Class size matters. Policymakers should act like it.

For more on education politics and policy, follow @TheAndySpears



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