MassBudget Reports on Class Size Reduction
MassBudget has released The Right Size for Learning, a report which looks into how reductions in class size can improve the quality of learning, but only when the right steps are taken.
Research on the relationship between class size and student success has identified several key insights. These can be distilled to four main principles:
(1) Target the early grades,
(2) Target students with the greatest need,
(3) Ensure that classes are staffed with strong teachers,
(4) Combine class size reductions with other effective school practices.
Perhaps the best studied class size reduction program is the Student Teacher Achievement Ratio project (Project STAR) undertaken in the 1980s in Tennessee. Project STAR supported small class sizes for early elementary students (kindergarten to 3rd grade) over four years. Research on this effort has consistently found positive academic improvement for kids whose classes were reduced to roughly 15 students. Kids in these smaller classes continued to do better throughout the later grades and also did better on college entrance exams. The positive impacts were greatest for low-income students, students of color, and those in urban schools
Attempting to build on the success of Project STAR in Tennessee, the state of California in the 1990s implemented a large-scale statewide class size reduction plan to boost achievement for early elementary students. Instead of replicating the effective program features in Tennessee, however, the California initiative was staffed by lower quality teachers, was poorly targeted, and didn’t significantly reduce class sizes. It ultimately failed to deliver the same results.