Of the many issues generating debate in the educational field, perhaps none is so enduring as that of class size. Does it impact our children? And if so, how? Are they one of dozens of nameless faces, struggling to learn and to be heard? Or do they benefit from a variety of peers and different group dynamics? Which is more favorable to their growth as learners – and which sets them up for success in the next phase of their education? The advantages of smaller class sizes have been proven – again and again – and it is a difference you will notice in your child’s journey as a student.
What Does the Evidence Say About Smaller Class Sizes?
An extensive experiment, Project STAR, followed 11,600 children in Tennessee. The kindergarten through third-grade students were randomly assigned to three class-size categories: 13-17 students, 22-25 students, and 25+ students.
On average, those who were in the smallest classes had 8% higher reading scores and 9% higher math scores than the children in the medium-sized classes.
An analysis of studies by the National Education Policy Center determined that smaller class sizes generally yield higher test scores. This is especially true of kindergarten and first-grade students and for students from low-income backgrounds. The gains made in earlier grades are more likely to carry through into middle and high school, as well.
In addition to enhanced academic results, the advantages of smaller class sizes include:
- Individual Attention. One of the negative effects of large classes is that students can “slip through the cracks.” If they do their work and don’t cause distractions, they can go unnoticed by overwhelmed teachers. In smaller classes, students can’t hide! And they don’t get left behind.
- Teachers Have More Time to Teach. In larger classrooms, behavior management often takes precedence over covering content and encouraging student participation. In a smaller class, your child has the opportunity to share opinions and ideas, as well as receive targeted feedback and instruction from his or her teacher. There is more opportunity for one-on-one interaction with the instructor as well.
- Individualized Instruction. There is a definite trend towards individualized instruction. Instead of assigning one math worksheet for the entire class, for example, a teacher can create lessons and projects that meet the needs of individuals. This is a big benefit of project- and problem-based learning, individual learning portfolios, and other educational methods. If someone needs accelerated learning opportunities or more support with a concept, it’s easier to deliver.
- More Participation. The flip side of this is that students have more in-depth opportunities to learn. They can participate fully, and if they are struggling with a concept, there is more support available to them via their peers and their teachers.
- You Build Classroom Communities. When there are fewer students, children have the opportunity to build closer, stronger relationships with their peers.
Smaller classes, especially in the critical early years of school, build a foundation for more effective learning. One of the biggest advantages of smaller class sizes is that it allows your child to grow and thrive in a much more individualized environment.