The Benefits of Smaller Classes
Former President Clinton has been quoted as saying “recent research confirms what parents have always known-children learn better in small classes with good teachers.” There are at least 21 states and the federal government currently pouring money and resources into reducing class size. Along with their state education departments, many school districts are asking, “How do we get started?” The National Class-Size Reduction Program is helping bring this idea to reality. Research has shown that certain conditions are critical to achieving the benefits of smaller class sizes.
An adequate supply of good teachers, sufficient classroom space, a representative student mix in each class and teacher access to adequate materials and services are necessary if this program is going to be successful.
The state of California launched their class size reduction project four years ago and already small positive gains were recorded for the second consecutive year. The California program has also shown that professional development is crucial to helping teachers take full advantage of smaller class sizes. Evidence has also shown class size reduction has a positive effect on younger children as well as disadvantaged children.
The AFT is a strong advocate for reducing class size in order to help raise student achievement especially in high-poverty, at risk schools. Smaller classes improve class atmosphere, lower levels of noise, enable teachers to know the students better giving rise to fewer discipline problems.
Class size reduction is most effective when classes are between 15 and 19 students, there is an adequate supply of qualified teachers, there is an adequate supply of classroom space and particular schools are targeted with low income, low achieving students. An added benefit of small classes results in more parent involvement with the school and more frequent interactions between teachers and students.