Yes, Size Matters: The Impact of Class Sizes on Student Achievements

Approximately 1 in 4 Oregon elementary students sit in classrooms of at least 30 students.

415677_10151058241242055_685386626_oDid you catch the Washington Post blog post this week on educational impacts from class sizes? It points to a new report on the impacts of class sizes on student achievements and outcomes.

Northwestern University Associate Professor Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach conducted a review of the massive body of research and studies on class size and  found consensus across the board: Class size matters. It matters a lot.

She found that education research time and time again shows that, even when accounting for other variables, increased class sizes directly, negatively impact student outcomes. These impacts appear to impact low-income and minority populations the most, and may be the most important academic influence that is within our control.

K12Class size is no new topic to Oregonians. The Oregon Education Association and the Oregon Parent Teacher Associated have partnered together for their joint Class Size Campaign, to draw attention to the rapidly growing class sizes in Oregon public schools. Oregon currently has the third highest student-teacher ratio in the nation, and class sizes only continue to grow from year-to-year.

Our elementary schools are a prime example. During the 2010-11 school year, more than 86% of our elementary school students were in classrooms of fewer than 30.  But by 2012-13, just two school years later, that number was down to 77%. That means that nearly 1 in 4 elementary students were sitting in classrooms with 30 or more students. (Source: Oregon Department of Education)

Imagine for a moment, if you will, trying not just to control — but to teach — a classroom of 28 or 33 seven-year olds. It’s clear that this is not a wining situation for anyone.

After the thorough review of the available research, Schanzenbach offered a handful of policy recommendation, including her finding that “policymakers should carefully weigh the efficacy of class-size policy against other potential uses of funds. While lower class size has a demonstrable cost, it may prove the more cost-effective policy overall.”

class sizesGot that, Oregon? Because our students are waiting.

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