Class Sizes–Do They Matter?

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The election is tomorrow and it’s anybody’s guess what will happen to education funding in Maine.  I’m pretty sure class size and its relationship to achievement and learning will come up for discussion during the next year or two.  There is evidently a lot of research on this topic and, needless to say, there are varying interpretations of these studies. A post on the Answer Sheet blog (Valerie Strauss at The Washington Post) http://voices.washingtonpost.com/answer-sheet got me searching for more information.

I read a post  entitled “7 Class Size Myths—And The Truth” (http://voices.washingtonpost.com/answer-sheet/class-size/7-class-size-myths—-and-the.html) written by Leonie Haimson. (A revised version of this post is at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/leonie-haimson/the-7-myths-of-class-size_b_776706.html.   I wanted to find out more about the author.  She is the founder of Class Size Matters, an “independent research and advocacy group.”  You can learn all about them at their website: (http://www.classsizematters.org/). There is a lot of helpful information on this site for anyone wanting to research class sizes and their impact.

In her post Haimson lists several myths about class size and then debunks them. She’s a “myth buster”—sorry couldn’t resist.  What’s helpful about this post is that she gives the research citations to back up her argument.  The seven myths she lists and deflates are:

  • Class size is an unproven or ineffective reform.
  • There is a threshold that has to be reached before class size reduction provides benefits.
  • Large scale programs such as class size reduction in California didn’t work.
  • Class size reduction lowers the quality of teachers.
  • Class size matters, but only in the early grades.
  • Other reforms work better to narrow the achievement gap
  • Even if class size matters, it’s just too expensive.

Perhaps this information will be useful during budget time when administrators and school boards have to make tough budget choices.  The Answer Sheet has other posts related to class size that take the opposite viewpoint from Haimson on this topic. Of course, it’s my opinion that if anyone has spent any amount of time teaching, s/he knows class size matters a lot if one values interaction, descriptive and meaningful feedback, personalization, differentiation, and project-based learning that supports critical and creative thinking.

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3 Responses to “Class Sizes–Do They Matter?”

  1. leoniehaimson Says:

    please check out the revised version in the Huff Post with seven myths ( I added one)

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/leonie-haimson/the-7-myths-of-class-size_b_776706.html

    thanks for this!

    • Jill Spencer Says:

      I will edit the post to reflect the revised article. Thanks for responding. Your Class Size Matter website is full of great information–I’m sure I will use it a lot in the future. Thank you for your hard work on this important topic.

  2. Jacquie Leighton Says:

    Amen, Tena! I only want to ask one question to those who say class size is irrelevant to student learning…Do you consider our society a complicated animal? Yes, you say. Enter a classroom where a mini map of that society lays before yo…u. Sure, go ahead pack in 25, 30 ten-year-olds! But follow the life of the teacher who must manage, comfort, instruct, assess, plan, align, scaffold, intervene, inspire, team, conference, research, observe, challenge…

    Climb the ladder of idealism and denial. Let me know who’s at the top when you get there. Someone told me today that bullying can be confronted when we admit there is a problem and face it head on…daunting! I advise folks who espouse such beliefs regarding class size impacts that they be cautious and informed and use logic!! These are children ready to learn, maybe your ten-year-old who struggles with reading comprehension because she has an attention disorder. Step away from the numbers, the data, the whatever! Enter reality.
    Our students need teachers who can meet their individual needs! More than ever!

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