Does Class Size Matter?

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Tyler B., Jun 29, 2016.

  1. Tyler B.

    Tyler B. Groupie

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    This new study says reducing class size is the most effective way to boost achievement and that achievement lasts.

    Why are politicians spending state money on charters, vouchers and other things that do not out-perform public schools, but take money from them?
     
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  3. miss-m

    miss-m Devotee

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    Partly because most education decisions at the government level are not made by educators, but by businessmen and lawyers. As long as decisions are being made by people with little to no education experience, actual educational research and valid learning strategies will be ignored in policies.
     
  4. 2ndTimeAround

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    And those businessmen and lawyers usually have something to gain from the decisions being made.
     
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  5. otterpop

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    Thanks for the link Tyler B. It's a good collection of educational research. And, of course class size matters! Simple math would show that more kids = less time to focus on each student.

    I found this one intriguing:
    Reversing the Deprofessionalization of Teaching

    "California saw a 53% plummet (in enrollment in teacher preparation programs) from just 2008 to 2012. Correspondingly, teachers’ satisfaction with their jobs dropped from 62 to 39 percent between 2008 and 2012, its lowest level in 25 years. These trends raise ongoing concerns for students, teachers, schools and society."
     
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2016
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  6. mathmagic

    mathmagic Enthusiast

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    Because they answer to and are elected by the general public, most of whom don't know of and/or don't believe the research, and are tired with the school system and want some kind of different outside change. In addition, in our last levy/bond, it was interesting to hear that over 70% of our voting population for it had no kids in the K-12 system, and this is even in a highly residential area with tons of schools!
     
  7. YoungTeacherGuy

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    In 2008, my CA district moved from a 20:1 ratio to 28:1. Although each class only increased by 8 students, test scores nosedived. Additionally, this was during the time when teachers (including me) were being pink slipped left and right! That particular period of time was awful!

    In 2012, we moved to a 24:1 ratio and teachers stopped being laid off. I'd venture to guess that the job satisfaction rate increased slightly around that time.
     
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  8. readingrules12

    readingrules12 Aficionado

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    I know the committee I looked at studied class size a lot and really wanted to find the research you did. We didn't. I am glad to hear that there is research supporting that class size makes a difference. No teacher wants larger class sizes.

    Much of the research that I have seen has shown reducing class size is very expensive and only leads to small gains. This might be why some have turned away from embracing this as the leading solution.

    IMO class size does make a difference especially in the younger grades. I am for reducing class sizes. I do think though that there are many other things that need to be looked at that can also benefit education. The solution to improving education also includes many other factors such as: parent support, teacher pay and benefits, teaching and school environment, teacher training, and the support of administration.

    I once was a long term sub in one of the roughest and poorest schools in the state. I had 20 third grade students. I can tell you it felt like 50. The next week, I was in a 5th grade classroom in one of the best schools in the area with 27 fifth grade students. The students were well above grade level and there were no discipline problems.

    Yes, reduce class sizes, but also with other needed improvements that our school systems need.
     
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  9. yellowdaisies

    yellowdaisies Fanatic

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    24:1 in K-3, right? If you have 24 kids in 4-5, I'm going to be extremely jealous of those teachers. We have 24:1 in K-3 and 32:1 in 4-5.

    This research, like most, focuses on K-3. I really do think class size matters much more in primary (really in K-2). Not that I really love having a big class, but I'm one of those glass half full type of people - I just try to make the most of it and not be defeatist about things I can't change.
     
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  10. nstructor

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    I agree that reducing class size for ALL grade levels is beneficial.
     
  11. Sarge

    Sarge Enthusiast

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    I think there are a few other factors that come into play. Last year, I had about 5 kids with serious, off the chart behaviors. My class was very small - some days, I had less than 15 kids (ok, their attendance was craptacular as well).

    I often wished I had more kids to serve as role models for the rest of the class. My 5 major problems often outnumbered the kids who seriously wanted to learn, and that was a problem. The rest of the class often began to emulate the kids who I least wanted them to emulate. I began to think if I had a larger class, the problem kids would actually have less of an impact on learning. I began to feel so strongly in this theory that I considered asking one of the other second grade teachers if I could borrow a few of her ultra low maintenance kids to see if it improved the climate in my class.

    Then the school year ended and we all went home.
     
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  12. mathteachertobe

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    My district received philanthropic funding last year that was used to reduce the class sizes of all 8th grade math classes and only those classes. All schools were mandated to cap those classes at 24. (I am an 8th grade math teacher.) Previously my classes had been around 34 to 36 students. The impact for me, since my students do a lot of group work, is that I had a much better idea of the conversations my students were engaged in. I could redirect or clarify for groups that were struggling, and I had a much better sense of how well each student understood the math we were working on. Classroom management was a bit easier, but not markedly so. I am very curious to see what our standardized test scores look like, particularly if our grade level looks much different than other grades, as a district.
     
  13. YoungTeacherGuy

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    Yikes! I totally wasn't clear. Yes: We are 24:1 in K-3 and 32:1 in 4-6.
     
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  14. YoungTeacherGuy

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    Yes, that's the way our high schools are, too.

    I didn't mention this in my original response, but I was referring to lower elementary (grades K-3).
     
  15. waterfall

    waterfall Virtuoso

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    The same thing happened in my district. They used a large body of research to support making cuts to classroom positions in favor of hiring instructional coaches. We lost three classroom positions and they replaced those people with coaches. I could maybe see justifying larger classrooms if they were going to hire more interventionists to work directly with struggling students. I'm not convinced that three adults that won't work with kids are really going to make that much of a difference. I guess we'll see!
     
  16. waterfall

    waterfall Virtuoso

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    Luckily we had several people leaving anyway, so no one actually lost their job. They just didn't refill those positions with new teachers. I had an instructional coach a few years ago that was really good and I enjoyed working with her. However, even though she was good I'm still not convinced that it wouldn't have been more effective to have her actually working directly with students in small groups or something.
     
  17. otterpop

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    We're limited to 24 in upper elementary. It's awesome.
     
  18. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    Our grade 1-3 classes are hard-capped at 20. Grades 4-8 generally sit somewhere between 25 and 30. I'll have (I think) 32 in my grade 7 class next year. Most of the high school classes tend to be between 25 and 30 students as well.
     
  19. a2z

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    I'm not going to spend hours on this, but it seems much of the research listed in the bibliography was basically a list of research papers that were citing other research papers that cited the few instances of original research that goes back decades. Some of the papers even explain how some of the research didn't and couldn't control for factors that really needed to be controlled.

    The list looks impressive, but upon close inspection, what you find is a bunch of papers writing about a bunch of other papers that were writing about a bunch of other papers that actually wrote about the actual research.
     
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  20. Pashtun

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    Does anyone have the Hattie Visible learning take on class sizes? Maybe they can comment on what Hattie concluded. I know it was not considered to have a strong effect size.
    I don't really understand why class size doesn't have a large impact on student learning, but I "thought" research indicated it was not very effective.
     
  21. readingrules12

    readingrules12 Aficionado

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    Hattie Visible Learning showed that class size had only a small impact. Some of the things that had greater impacts than class size were: Home environment, teacher-student relationships, school size, classroom management, teacher expectations, parental involvement, professional development, teacher strategies, who the teacher in the classroom is, and acceleration (are students allowed to accelerate at a faster pace through the curriculum at a pace that matches their abilities).

    Hope this helps.
     
  22. Tyler B.

    Tyler B. Groupie

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    These are called meta-analysis and it's how Marzano does most of his work: he studies the studies. I don't understand your concern.
     
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  23. Tyler B.

    Tyler B. Groupie

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    One of the reasons I posted this study was so that teachers and parents could share it with policy makers and representatives. Many of these people are searching for cover in class they do something that might reduce class sizes.

    Lawmakers often face the undeserved criticism that they are pending to the teachers unions when they pass laws with class size limits.
     
  24. Pashtun

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    What I meant was did Hattie give any studies or details on why it was not very effective?
     
  25. Loomistrout

    Loomistrout Devotee

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    Agree. Using class size only as the determining factor is too simplistic. A valid study should maintain attributes mentioned as constants then isolate class size as the only variable. Sarge mentioned the kinds (personalities, learning ability etc.) of kids has a lot to do with a "full" class.

    A district some time back experimented with loading classes by tested grade level ranking. A student up to one year below grade level counted as 1.5 students. A student greater than one year below grade level or more counted as 2 students. In addition, aides were assigned to classes with greatest need not class size.
     
  26. waterfall

    waterfall Virtuoso

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    This completely makes sense. Some of our "extra high maintenance" kids could have as big of an impact on a class as 6-8 extra "average" kids, IMO.
     
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  27. otterpop

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    Any idea how that worked out?
     
  28. a2z

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    I am well aware that it is called meta-analysis and is becoming a common way of looking at information.

    Meta-analysis has drawbacks that can impact the validity of the meta-analysis and can contain bias. Although it is gaining popularity because researching certain areas of social science and medicine can be difficult or near impossible without putting people at risk, it doesn't mean that it is valid especially when starting with flawed research or relying on other meta-analysis as part of your research base. The other impact is not including research that disagreed with the hypothesis in the first place or picking meta-analysis that is agreeing with what the researcher wants to promote.

    I think you must be very careful when relying on the accuracy of meta-analysis research, especially when it uses very few actual research studies and when the meta-analysis uses more meta-analysis than the number of research studies that were done in the first place. It ends up being like "the telephone game" research.
     
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  29. Rabbitt

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    It has so many benefits for both the students and the teachers. Just the thought of less paper work and assessment for the teacher makes it beneficial. They then have more time for each student one on one. I can only imagine this making teachers happier, more patient, and more eager to find lessons.
     
  30. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    But he also found that there's not too much that teachers can do to hinder student learning....There are things we can do to maximize learning, but luckily not much of what we do will actually hurt learning. So maybe classroom size by itself doesn't make much difference....but, perhaps coupled with other factors, it can make a difference (I'm obviously speculating and thinking "out loud" right now)? I think we can also look to Sarge's comment for insight as well. He had a low class size, but he severely lacked students who demonstrated effective classroom behaviors for others to model. This caused a snowball effect as poor behavior was demonstrated, modeled, and then repeated by others. So I am going to go out on a limb here and say this factor (classroom size) is not so black and white.

     
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  31. Pashtun

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    Do you think the researchers have not taken any of this into account?
     
  32. TamiJ

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    I have no idea what the researchers took into account. However, wasn't his study really a metanalysis of many studies? So, we would have to look at what those studies actually looked at. Were there many studies on classroom size? Did they compare classroom size and other factors? I simply don't know what was involved in those studies (and it's been a while since I read the book).
     
  33. Pashtun

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    I just think as a teacher we overwhelmingly feel small class sizes would have a very very positive outcome on student learning, yet Hattie ranks it like 106 out of 136. I am just trying to make sure I am looking at both sides, not just what I think or want it to be.
     
  34. mathmagic

    mathmagic Enthusiast

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    I wonder (and this may have already been mentioned, I sort of skimmed), if the lesser positive effect is because there comes a point when an extra student doesn't make as much of a difference. Percentage-wise (and very "generically"), 25 students means each student gets 4% of your attention, but lowering it to 20 means that each student only gets 1% more - 5%. Drastic changes, such as 25 (4%) to 10 (10%), might show more significant differences, but otherwise, it's rather minute.

    (...oh, love of numbers/math...ha)
     
  35. Pashtun

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    I have "heard" of research like this before, where in order for class size reduction to be effective it had to be below a certain number, that was closer to 10 or 15 if I remember right.

    I really need to find Hattie's book(I have read it, just don't own it) and read what he wrote, I would think he would have commented on things like this if it was supported, no?
     
  36. TamiJ

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    I think another side that is being completely ignored is the effect of a small class size on a teacher's mental and emotional state. I wonder what results we would see if this factor were looked at through a psychological lense.
     
  37. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    I too was very surprised by this finding....But, like I say, I don't think this factor is so black and white. I think there's a lot more to it than what meets the eye.
     
  38. a2z

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    One of the studies I read indicated that the sweet spot was somewhere like 13-15 students and one teacher.
     
  39. Pashtun

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    I agree, but I think the researchers already know this and still came to a conclusion. With regards to the teachers mental state... I think it just highlights that classroom management and environment is so critical.
     
  40. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    Regardless of what they know, their conclusions would be made based on what came out of the study. Unless they are testing class size with other factors, their study absolutely is looking at class size in isolation (their conclusion cannot take into consideration that which was never tested). This is why studies, in general, can be very deceptive and limiting. Other factors should be tested in addition to classroom size. Then we would have a broader understanding of the effects of classroom size. Also, their study is looking at the effects of student learning, but, as I mentioned above, other lenses studies on classroom size (psychological, social, etc.) would provide additional information that might help us to understand this issue better.
     
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  41. yellowdaisies

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    I actually think that the amount of paper work and assessment has more to do with the school's requirements than with the class size. I had a class of 20 in my former school and I have a class of 28 (soon to be 32) now, but grading took me FAR longer with the smaller class because my school's requirements were so insanely ridiculous. We were constantly assessing and grading at that school. My current school gives teachers much more power in grading and assessment, so I am able to set up a system that works for me with a large class size.

    I'm not saying I love having a huge class size, I just agree with what others have said - there are other factors that also contribute.

    I find numbers this low to be totally unrealistic outside of private schools. California schools are funded through ADA (Average Daily Attendance), and this few students per teacher would never work under that method.
     

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