Monday, November 15, 2010

Class Size vs. Performance

One of govn'r Easley's primary claims to fame -- the first words out of his mouth when he mentions government education -- is making class sizes smaller. He knows that a vast majority of people hear that and think a) he cares about children and b) smaller class sizes result in better educated students. I've often wondered from where this idea came, so I've tried to find out (for now I'm ignoring 'a' because he only really cares about being elected).

I found a study from the Education Commission of the States (2002) that examined CA and reductions in class sizes. This pro-government education group found that there was no link between smaller class sizes and student achievment, and that when implemented, it's primary effect was to increase the number of unqualified teachers in the districts. When actual measurable results are compared, it can be found there is NO relationship between academic performance and class size -- one study by the Heritage Foundation found no difference in reading scores for students in classes of 20 or less as compared to classes of 31 and more.

In looking for more research supporting smaller class sizes, some benefits of smaller class size seems to be: "it helps teachers in getting to know the kids," "more personalized attention to students, higher teacher morale," and "The extra time got me inspired to try new things." One study on the TN "STAR" study is quoted in dozens of sources -- some claming smaller classes are absolutely, 100% effective in increasing student scores, while others claim they had no effect on test scores.

How about a longer term, wider-based study: "Hanushek discovered that between 1950 and 1994, student-teacher ratios in U.S. elementary and secondary schools fell by 35 percent. Nonetheless, math, science and reading scores among American 17-year-olds have remained the same throughout most of the time period." Doesn't sound so good, especially when reducing class size costs very, very large amounts of money. Oh yeah, it's for the children, so we can take that money from the producers and spend at will. I'm glad I homeschool.

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