Is It Better to Have a Great Teacher or a Small Class?
When it comes to student success, “smaller is better” has been the conventional wisdom on class size, despite a less-than-persuasive body of research. But what if that concept were turned on its head, with more students per classroom – provided they’re being taught by the most effective teachers?
That’s the question a new study out today from the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute set out to answer, using data on teachers and students in North Carolina in grades 4 through 8 over four academic years. While the results are based on a theoretical simulation rather than actually reconfiguring classroom assignments in order to measure the academic outcomes, the findings are worth considering.
The research on class size is mixed, and modest efforts–taking one or two students out of a room with more than 20 kids, for example–haven’t been found to yield much benefit on average. The enormous expense of paring classes down to the point where research has suggested there’s a measurable benefit for some students is simply beyond the fiscal means of most districts. As a result, everyone from U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to philanthropist Bill Gates has urged districts to consider waiving class size policies in favor of giving more students a chance at being taught by a highly effective teacher.
Read more. [Image: Mari Darr-Welch/AP Photo]