Why does class size matter?
I grew up in a school district with a class size ranging from about 15-20 kids, grades K through 12. Naturally, the classes grew a little bit as I got to high school due to gym classes being larger and just more students moving into my area as the years went on. As I moved on to college, my class sizes stayed the same for the first 2 years at 15-20, and this past year I noticed a change. My classes within my major (Communications at Widener University), began to shrink to about 10-15 students per class and I noticed one side effect of a small class. Soon enough, there was a greater overall closeness with my peers and teachers. It gave us a feel that we were in it together and we all genuinely wanted each other to do well. I found that the smaller classroom setting was very beneficial to my learning experience. After experiencing the benefits of learning in a small classroom, I was taken aback when I learned that many charter schools don’t believe in smaller class sizes. How can this be their only view? In addition to my personal experience, there is a large amount of research to validate my point of view. I considered it to be common knowledge that smaller class sizes almost always have a higher yield for learning. A key example of smaller class sizes being successful is the California class size reduction program in which all of the 6 (so far) controlled studies have shown significant gains from smaller classes.
Now how can a board of multiple well-educated people running a charter school choose to disregard such well-published studies such as the California study. A great example of the ideology that Charter Schools have is within this quote from Eva Maskowitz, founder and chief executive of the success charter network. Ms. Maskowitz states in response to the suggested benefits of smaller class sizes:
“I would argue that it goes far beyond exactly how many students. Whether you have 23 or 24 students or 25, you still need to be able to pay teachers exceedingly well. You still need – if you’re going to teach art, you need to have paint. Otherwise, what’s the point? Teachers need copy paper. There are a whole series of choices that we have to make. We have to prioritize what is important to us.”
To me, this dances around the point, and that point being that smaller class sizes are a proven way to improve our schools and the way children learn. Maskowitz’s suggestions are dangerous because she is considered an “expert”; this gives people a chance to pick and choose what they like from her opinion. People would see this quote and think class size does not matter at all, and therefore justify putting a teacher in over their head with 35 eighth graders. It also turns into the ideology that a good teacher can teach any size class, which is not the case at all. Sure, there are good teachers and some better than others. However, there is no excuse for thinking the “best teachers can give proper education to a large amount of children in one classroom”, it’s simply unrealistic. What’s wrong with putting a great teacher in a class of 14 or 15? Putting the teacher in a healthier position will show just how much they can engage the minds of children, which will benefit all indefinitely. Do some research of your own, I think you would be hard pressed to find that larger class sizes are at all beneficial to students.
If you’re a teacher, what has been your experience when it comes to class sizes? If you’re a parent, how important do you feel class size is to your child’s educational outcomes? Let us know.