The False Promise of Class-Size Reduction

Andrew Proctor

The title really says it all in the latest Center for
American Progress report,
The False Promise of Class-Size Reduction.
Author Matthew Chingos highlighted research on class-size reduction (CSR) and
found that placing students in smaller classes had no real impact on student
achievement. This is especially problematic due to the exorbitant costs that
CSR imposes. Twenty-four states including Ohio have or recently had policies that require schools to
reduce class sizes (the Buckeye State just repealed class-size mandates imposed
by the last governor). Previous legislation required class sizes as low as 15
(per one teacher), but provided no funding for schools to incur the additional
costs imposed by CSR.

Under CSR, schools are often forced to hire new teachers, as
well as build new facilities to accommodate an increase in the number of
classes.  This places additional strain
on districts to find resources and personnel. 
Although teachers and parents generally support smaller class sizes
because they are easier to manage and provide students with more individual
interaction with the teacher, Chingos cites research showing that teacher
effectiveness, not class size, is the chief in-school determinant of student
achievement.  He proposes that states and
districts might benefit by redirecting resources from class size reduction to
teacher quality-focused initiatives, as this could simultaneously cut costs and
boost student achievement. Additionally, Chingos suggests that districts
interested in accessing the benefits of additional individualized instruction might
employ the lower-cost option of using new technologies that tailor lessons to
individual students instead of the expensive practice of hiring multiple new
teachers to achieve smaller class sizes.

With weak evidence that CSR is effective, and schools being
forced to make do with limited resources, states should undo CSR policies and
free districts up to reward the best teachers for taking on larger class sizes,
an idea that is currently in the governor’s budget proposal.

False Promise of Class-Size Reduction

Center for American
Matthew M. Chingos
April 2011