The Smaller Class Size Debate- What’s the Deal With The Numbers?

Research shows that “smaller classes are an apparently foolproof prescription for improving student performance: Fewer students means more individual attention from the teacher, calmer classrooms, and consequently, higher test scores.” 

But is it really this easy? Will removing a few students from the classroom hold up to these standards that research has shown? Let’s dive deeper into the study. 

There truly are benefits to smaller class sizes, however, to yield long-term, lasting results, it must be a more thought out process than simply pulling a few students out of the classroom. In a setting with 28 students, reducing the class size to 25 students showed no significant difference. Even moving the student count to 20 (which may be considered a small class in some schools and grades), still did not show a big enough impact. Class sizes need to be 13-17 students in order to be considered small enough to yield impactful advances. 

The cost is a factor in this study because the expense of these class sizes may not be worth the small growth. The fewer students per classroom, the more classrooms and teachers needed, which creates higher costs to the school in salary as well as resources for each room. It is suggested that placing a more capable teacher in a bigger class can be just as effective as a less capable teacher in a smaller class. 

Obviously, in a class with fewer students, the teacher can place more time and attention on the students that need extra help. It can also cut down on disruptive behavior, noise levels, and student or teacher stress. These are all factors that last short term, and truly are beneficial for the school year, but can be costly to the school. 

The best way to create a successful system with smaller class sizes, the research suggests following the guidelines of starting the students early in kindergarten or first grade. It also suggests that a “small class size” is a range of 13-17 students. If every student cannot be reached based on funds and resources, at-risk students should be placed in smaller classes first. The small-sized class also needs to be consistent for the students, letting them experience it every day, all day. They also need to be consistent over the years, placing them in the smaller classes for at least two years, if not more. 

With all of these factors, we truly do need to step back and think, is the smaller class size worth it in the long-term sense? Will the funds, time, and resources spent on these smaller class sizes benefit the growth of the students enough to use them? 

It is so easy to place a better education system in the hands of small class sizes, and it can be true, given the correct circumstances. However, better alternatives may be out there. 

What are the benefits you have found in a classroom with fewer students? Do you think shrinking numbers can fix a broken school system? 

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