Research Update

Article Tools
  • PrintPrinter-Friendly
  • EmailEmail Article
  • ReprintReprints
  • CommentsComments

Wisconsin Study Finds Benefits In Classes of 15 or Fewer Students

Children in classes of no more than 15 students do better than those in bigger classes, a study from a Wisconsin program that provided poor students with smaller classes suggests.

Results of the Student Achievement Guarantee in Education, or SAGE, program showed that between 1996-97 and 1998-99, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders in 30 public schools performed better on the Comprehensive Tests of Basic Skills than did students in bigger classes. The study also concluded that, in most cases, African-American students showed even more improvement than white students, and that teachers were better able to devote time to individual students in SAGE classrooms.

"We have robust results. There is definitely a strong relationship between class size and achievement," said John A. Zahorik, a professor of curriculum and instruction at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and one of three authors of the study.

John A. Zahorik

The study compared the scores of 9,876 students on the Terra Nova edition of the CTBS with scores of similar students in 16 nonparticipating schools. It found that students in the SAGE program scored an average of 10 points higher than those in the comparison group, said Philip Smith, another of the study's authors.

Early Research Supported

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction contracted with the university to evaluate the program, which was financed by the state legislature in 1995 as a five-year pilot in schools with high numbers of poor students. The SAGE program has since expanded, to 78 schools this year. Legislators plan to expand it to 400 and have set aside $59 million in the state budget to do so.

The Wisconsin findings are the latest on the heavily researched and debated issue of whether smaller classes enhance student achievement. The largest and longest-lasting study, Project STAR in Tennessee, which began in 1985, has found that students in classes of 15 to 17 did better than those in bigger classes. A study by Gene V. Glass of Arizona State University in the 1970s concluded that class size had little effect on achievement until it was reduced to about 15.

Mr. Zahorik said those studies contributed to the decision to study a class size of 15 in Wisconsin.

Some critics have cautioned policymakers against devoting large sums to reducing class size, pointing out that other studies show little or no correlation between class size and student learning.

Eric A. Hanushek, an economist at the University of Rochester in Rochester, N.Y., who has examined more than 275 similar studies, argues in his writings than teacher quality has a much more potent effect than class size on student achievement.

Vol. 19, Issue 31, Page 10

Published in Print: April 12, 2000, as Research Update
Related Stories
Notice: We recently upgraded our comments. (Learn more here.) If you are logged in as a subscriber or registered user and already have a Display Name on, you can post comments. If you do not already have a Display Name, please create one here.
Ground Rules for Posting
We encourage lively debate, but please be respectful of others. Profanity and personal attacks are prohibited. By commenting, you are agreeing to abide by our user agreement.
All comments are public.

Back to Top Back to Top

Most Popular Stories





Sponsor Insights

Free Ebook: How to Implement a Coding Program in Schools

Successful Intervention Builds Student Success

Effective Ways to Support Students with Dyslexia

Stop cobbling together your EdTech

Integrate Science and ELA with Informational Text

Can self-efficacy impact growth for ELLs?

Disruptive Tech Integration for Meaningful Learning

Building Community for Social Good

5 Resources on the Power of Interoperability from Unified Edtech

New campaign for UN World Teachers Day

5 Game-Changers in Today’s Digital Learning Platforms

Hiding in Plain Sight - 7 Common Signs of Dyslexia in the Classroom

The research: Reading Benchmark Assessments

Shifting Mindsets: A Guide for Training Paraeducators to Think Differently About Challenging Behavior

All Students Are Language Learners: The Imagine Learning Language Advantage™

Shifting Mindsets: A Guide for Training Paraeducators to Think Differently About Challenging Behavior

How to Support All Students with Equitable Pathways

2019 K-12 Digital Content Report

3-D Learning & Assessment for K–5 Science

Climate Change, LGBTQ Issues, Politics & Race: Instructional Materials for Teaching Complex Topics

Closing the Science Achievement Gap

Evidence-based Coaching: Key Driver(s) of Scalable Improvement District-Wide

Advancing Literacy with Large Print

Research Sheds New Light on the Reading Brain

Tips for Supporting English Learners Through Personalized Approaches

Response to Intervention Centered on Student Learning

The Nonnegotiable Attributes of Effective Feedback

SEE MORE Insights >