Curriculum Report Roundup

Smaller Classes Seen As No Silver Bullet

By Debra Viadero — April 08, 2008 1 min read
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“Class-Size Reduction: Policy, Politics, and Implications for Equity”

Research does not provide evidence that a district should—or should not—try to improve learning by shrinking class sizes, according to a review by a researcher from Teachers College, Columbia University.

In his study, Douglas Ready, an assistant professor of education, concludes that the success of class-size-reduction strategies depend largely on the context in which they are set. Educators in California and Florida, for example, ran into formidable challenges when they began their statewide initiatives to reduce average class sizes in the early-elementary years, Mr. Ready notes.

But similar efforts in Tennessee and Wisconsin proved to be more successful, more quickly. And a recent national survey on kindergartners and 1st graders found that, while children do seem to learn more in classes with 17 or fewer students than they do in classes of 26 or more, the learning gains that pupils make in small and medium-size classes—those with 18 to 25 students—are about the same as in the classes of fewer than 17 students.

Mr. Ready’s review shows, however, that students from poor families and pupils who are members of minority groups are likelier to benefit from smaller classes than their better-off or white peers.

Even so, the scholar concludes that “meaningful education reform requires much deeper transformations than class-size reduction alone can provide.” Mr. Ready presented his findings at the college on April 2 as part of a series of forums on educational equity.

See Also

For more stories on this topic see Curriculum and Learning.

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A version of this article appeared in the April 09, 2008 edition of Education Week

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