When does class size matter?

Several commentators on this blog have expressed fear that education budget cuts — and even so-called education reforms — will increase class sizes. The advantage of smaller class size seems intuitively obvious to teachers and parents alike. Research, however, is not as conclusive. Class size DOES sometimes matter, especially in the early grades and for disadvantaged students. It’s not as clear that it matters in high school, and indeed one of the advantages of online learning is that it “leverages” teachers. In plain English, this means that one talented teacher can reach a lot more kids.

My own concern about class size reflects my obsession with writing. To grade an essay (preferably, multiple drafts of an essay) takes time, and the time increases proportionally with the number of students. Other aspects of teaching, however, respond to economies of scale.

Here is a link to a recent Brookings Institution report on class size research. If you’re interested, I recommend that you check this out.

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