Everyone knows that no matter how small your classes are, having an effective,
committed teacher is by far the most important ingredient in a successful
classroom. However, even the most effective teachers have their limits.
As budget cuts see fewer teacher and more students in each class, just
how much is too much?
STAR project was an influential study which showed the impact class sizes have on academic
achievement. The project was seminal in its field because it accounted
for extraneous factors like teacher training, curriculum and the socioeconomic
background of teachers and students. Its findings were predictable; small
class sizes (especially in K-3) contributed significantly to higher academic
achievement. In the long term, small class sizes continued to contribute
to higher grades, especially with students who had previously been subjected
to large class sizes. The students who enjoyed small class sizes retained
their academic performance when returned to larger class sizes. Academic
improvement was most pronounced in cases where class sizes were under
20 (ideal class size is said to be 17 or less).
Small class sizes, especially early in a child’s education, contribute to their improved
academic performance in a number of ways. Children in small classes pay
more attention and participate more in classroom activities. There was
less anti-social behaviour in small classes which fostered a more caring,
Teachers with small classrooms have more time to spend with each student.
They are able to build closer, more personal relationships with the students
and parents. They tend to allow the students more freedom, and give more
feedback on student’s progress. Teachers with smaller classes have
more time to work on creative and interesting ways to teach curricula.
A teacher weighed down by thirty two children does well to remember their
names, but is unlikely to be cognizant of whether your little genius is
having trouble with fractions.
Reducing class sizes may not always be an option for cash strapped schools.
Reducing class numbers from 25 to 14 requires 5 teachers where 3 would
suffice before. This means each child will have to contribute an extra
$1 000 dollars a year to pay for smaller class sizes. Even though this
is a difficult target to reach, some parents like those at
Greewich Village Public School who, reticent to accept budget cuts that would see an increase in class
sizes, raised the money for the extra teachers themselves.
If you have to choose, well-trained, motivated teachers and well developed
curricula are far more important than class size. Small class sizes have
more of an impact in K-3 years, so invest more in your child’s education
during the formative years. They can take the lessons they learn here
to more crowded middle and high schools while maintaining a high academic standard.