Five long years (and class-size reduction)

I note, somewhat belatedly, that I’ve been blogging here since January 2005 (or November 2004, if you want to count a first experimental WordPress post).

My first substantive post, BBC: Small-class pupils ‘do no better’, began:

New British research suggests that there “is no evidence that children in smaller primary classes do better in maths or English”.

Anniversaries aside, I bring up that post because it’s still a live subject. In December, a local editor opined (emphasis mine),

School officials are considering “eliminating class size reductions” in kindergarten through third grade. That means that instead of one teacher for every 20 students there may be half again as many students crowded into the classroom. Superintendent Rob Gaskill says there may soon be as many as 32 young scholars in a classroom. There is universal agreement that such a change would have profound implications for the education of young students.

…and our local school board, pushing for a local parcel tax, ranked class-size reduction near the bottom of a list of potential cost-cutting measures.

Class-size reduction (CSR) is popular in California, especially with parents and teachers, but there’s no good evidence that it leads to better educational outcomes, at least not the way it’s implemented here. CSR in California typically means reducing K–3 classes from about 30 to 20 students. What sketchy evidence that exists for CSR benefits is limited to class sizes in the 12–15 range. That, and unsupported claims that it “stands to reason” that CSR is beneficial.

CSR is expensive, and needs better justification than we’ve seen to date.

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