Opinion
Education Letter to the Editor

Class Size: New Research, Beyond STAR, Is Needed

March 18, 2008 2 min read

To the Editor:

Class-size reduction merits both new research and continuing analyses of Tennessee’s Project STAR class-size data (“Class-Size Reductions Seen of Limited Help on Achievement Gap,” Feb. 27, 2008). The STAR (short for Student/Teacher Achievement Ratio) experiment, conducted from 1985 to 1989, is old enough to be replicated as well as represented accurately.

The principal investigators of the study, of whom I was one, are pleased that STAR and its database are used. Its results could serve as a basis for future study, and should not be omitted from a discussion as a rationale for a new study.

Along with Jeremy Finn, I have researched small classes from 1982 to 2008 using both STAR data and studies in other settings, such as North Carolina. The constellation of STAR-related class-size studies provides much data that researchers often omit; perhaps it is easier to obtain test scores than dig into the STAR report.

Spyros Konstantopoulos, whose review of STAR data is discussed in your article, is correct that “manipulating class size” doesn’t appear to reduce achievement gaps. His comments are apparently based on his examination of Stanford Achievement Test outcomes, only one of several measures used in STAR. The STAR study identified other key elements, and a careful reading of its report might have softened his call for a randomized experiment to “include observations of teaching practices and interactions between students and teachers in small classes,” as you report.

The STAR researchers seldom say that “manipulating class size” by itself made all of the differences obtained. Results similar to STAR outcomes will not be obtained if researchers omit key experimental elements: random assignment, or heterogeneity; early intervention; intensity; duration (three or more years of the intervention); and a cohort.

Considerable data on teaching practices and interactions are detailed in the STAR technical report, “The State of Tennessee’s Student/Teacher Achievement Ratio (STAR) Project,” which includes information on the following: descriptive data and teacher effectiveness; effects of class size on classroom processes; teacher grouping practices; and effects of reduced class size on curriculum, instruction, and teacher-child interactions. A detailed appendix on teacher-effectiveness practices includes 25 pages of observation instruments, data, and rater agreements. Principal investigators of STAR also conducted separate studies on teacher-student interactions and teaching practices.

Much can be learned from a careful reading of the STAR report, articles about the experiment written by investigators, reanalyses of the data, and comparative analyses of STAR data with other databases. A new study, however, probably is overdue.

Charles M. Achilles

College of Education

Seton Hall University

South Orange, N.J.

A version of this article appeared in the March 19, 2008 edition of Education Week as Class Size: New Research, Beyond STAR, Is Needed

Let us know what you think!

We’re looking for feedback on our new site to make sure we continue to provide you the best experience.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Future of Work Webinar
Digital Literacy Strategies to Promote Equity
Our new world has only increased our students’ dependence on technology. This makes digital literacy no longer a “nice to have” but a “need to have.” How do we ensure that every student can navigate
Content provided by Learning.com
Mathematics Online Summit Teaching Math in a Pandemic
Attend this online summit to ask questions about how COVID-19 has affected achievement, instruction, assessment, and engagement in math.
School & District Management Webinar Examining the Evidence: Catching Kids Up at a Distance
As districts, schools, and families navigate a new normal following the abrupt end of in-person schooling this spring, students’ learning opportunities vary enormously across the nation. Access to devices and broadband internet and a secure

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Speech Therapists
Lancaster, PA, US
Lancaster Lebanon IU 13
Elementary Teacher
Madison, Wisconsin
One City Schools
Elementary Teacher - Scholars Academy
Madison, Wisconsin
One City Schools

Read Next

Education Obituary In Memory of Michele Molnar, EdWeek Market Brief Writer and Editor
EdWeek Market Brief Associate Editor Michele Molnar, who was instrumental in launching the publication, succumbed to cancer.
5 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: December 9, 2020
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of articles from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of stories from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read