Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Reduce class size or develop teachers?

After much discussion and deliberation we will be hiring another teacher to split a large Kindergarten class.  I am a believer in small class sizes, especially in the lower elementary grades.  Many administrators wrestle with the decision of splitting a larger class into multiple sections.

Where does the research stack up to smaller class size?

There is a lot of conflicting research for class size reduction and against it.  There is a study that focused specifically on large reductions from 22 students to 15 students.  In this case, the conclusion was that over the course of four years students in smaller sections achieved higher.  Students were 3 months further ahead than their peers in larger classes.

There is also research that supports smaller class size has an even greater impact on students coming from poverty.  The National School Lunch Program has a recommended class size chart in relation to poverty level.

NSLP Recommended Class Size Targets
0-25% 26-40% 41-50% >50%
K-2 23 22 20 18
3-5 25 24 22 20

North Dakota Century Code recommends students in K-2 not exceed 25 students in a class.

The other side of the argument for class size reduction is that it is not about the size of the classroom, it is about the teacher.  There is research out there that class size does not matter when they are taught by an excellent teacher.  Check this article out: Better teachers, not tinier classrooms, should be the goal.  He does have a point.

"A great teacher can teach 60.  A poor teacher will struggle with 5." - Jay Matthews 

What are your thoughts?  Should administrators focus on putting money on hiring more teachers to reduce class size or focus on providing funding for developing amazing teachers?

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