Tone Down Class Size
Education reform, as you may know, is an extremely controversial subject that enlists different points of view, opinions and solutions to find a “fix”. One area that specifically impacts educational reform that particularly piques my interest is class size. The debate is whether or not smaller class sizes augments a student’s ability to learn and whether or not a reduction in students per class is economically possible for a public school system. Economically speaking, state, federal, local taxes and grants are the only way for public schools to gain money. If those that possess the power to make change happen cared enough about our education, in this country then they would look at the evidence and change our monotonous, misguided, and flawed system. We continue to do experiments that lead to the same conclusions, pretending that one day the evidence will magically change without implementing the necessary changes to better the American education. Even though there are a plethora of private and government programs that provide a patchwork of educational services, millions go without basic reading and writing skills. In this paper, I will provide a proposal entailing concerns of education reform and how class size affects learning opportunity.
During my search for knowledge about the reform, I easily stumbled upon the website for Health and Education Research Operative Services, Inc. also known as “Heroes”. This website, as well as many others informed me of an experiment known as “STAR”, the Student Teacher Achievement Ratio, conducted over four years in the state of Tennessee. This state funded experiment involved a number of randomly selected students, teachers, and subjects. The experiment ranged from the grade levels of K-3, with the question being, will students demonstrate better all around learning in a smaller class as opposed to a larger class with and without extra help. Researchers Glass & Smith (1978) declare upon completion of their project, “This research leaves no doubt that small classes have an advantage over larger classes in reading and math in early primary grades.” Additionally, the research reviewed, according to the supportive documentation, reveals that years after abandoning the smaller classes the students still maintained better all around classroom performance in comparison to the students not placed in smaller classes.
After researching the STAR program, I read and analyzed the article titled “The Class Size Debate”, found at epinet.org. My main focus was on a professor of economics and public affairs at Princeton University, Alan Krueger, receiving his Ph.D. from Harvard University. Krueger after studying Education Reform came to understand the subject quite well. He stated that students in small classes are more likely to pursue college and more likely to take the ACT and SAT college entrance exams. He commented on the STAR program and I quote, “Attendance in small classes appears to have cut the black-white gap in the probability of taking a college-entrance exam by more than half.” It was quite tough to get away from the STAR experiment because of its overwhelming evidence. In 1987, a study supports the same results as the STAR program, more students, whether it is minorities or smaller cities, improve all around in the class room when exposed to smaller class. Dr. Krueger says that the significantly enhanced achievement for children, especially minority children, is supported by their experience in smaller classes.
Lastly, I reviewed the online site http://www.centerforpubliceducation.org where there is an abundance of articles on the topic at hand. Ironically, the articles I reviewed on the website contained limited information linking the negative effects on larger classroom size nor did the articles offer anything positive to say about the benefits of smaller classes, and if anything negative was said it always referred as reform being “economically unfriendly.” In support of my opinion, Mitchell & Mitchell (1999) notes after two years of the Class Size Reduction Program (CSR) implementation in California, reveal “students in reduced size classes made small positive gains in student achievement”. Additionally, Mitchell & Mitchell (1999) proved in just a year of reduced class size, students improved in reading and math. After two years the same students were reanalyzed and the gap widened between the students as analyzed by the 9th Edition of the Stanford Achievement Test.
Throughout this blog I have provided factual evidence to support a reduced class size will enhance the learning of our youth. Scholarly examples of experiments and statistical data has depicted that smaller classrooms yields positive results for educational reform. During my research, a quote written by Frederick Mosteller, a professor at Harvard University who spoke about the STAR experiment impacted me greatly. Mosteller said it was “one of the most important educational investigations ever carried out and illustrates the kind of magnitude of research needed in the field to strengthen students”. One can only ask if you have kids or when you have kids, remember what it was like for yourself growing up in public education. It’s time to better our country, and ourselves, and what better way than through education.