It seems that from "In the beginning...," public school teachers unions and their advocates have been agitating for smaller class sizes. The logic is that with fewer students present in classrooms, teachers are better able to instruct each student.
Yet, a study examining 5th and 8th grade public school classrooms in North Carolina indicates that significant gains in student achievement is not related to class size but to teacher effectiveness. It seems that effective teachers are able to instruct each student irrespective of class size (within limits, of course).
The study, conducted by Michael Hansen, suggests that:
- Moving more students into classrooms of the most effective 8th grade teachers (up to 12 more students than would be in the average classroom or about 25-32 students) was the equivalent of adding two-and-a-half weeks to the school year.
- Adding less than 12 students--up to 6 more than the school average--demonstrated math and science gains that were the equivalent of an additional two weeks of the school year.
One caveat: Changing class size is more effective for 8th grade than for 5th grade. This finding makes sense in that students in the lower elementary grades require greater one-on-one interaction with a teacher to "get it." Think about penmanship, math, and reading.
Of greater interest to The Motley Monk is one implication of Hansen's study. That is, removing the lowest-performing 5% of teachers from classrooms. This act alone would improve educational outcomes (as measured on standardized examinations) and lower costs to the taxpayers.
Doing so is a "two-fer"!
But, try selling that to the public school teachers unions and their advocates.
Let the discussion begin...
To read about Michael Hansen's study, click on the following link:
"Right-Sizing the Classroom: Making the Most of Great Teachers."