Yes, it’s true: Class size matters

Group of Multiethnic Diverse Hands Raised

There is a “clear and positive consensus by an overwhelming majority of peer-reviewed papers that smaller classes are beneficial,” according to an analysis released Tuesday by the Great Lakes Center for Education Policy and Research.

“Parents and teachers regularly extol the virtues of smaller class sizes,” writes researcher William J. Mathis from the University of Colorado Boulder. “Despite this, because school budgets are tied to class size, teacher pay, and benefits, class size often becomes a costly and contentious issue for local school districts.”

Yet there is no doubt, he concludes, that smaller class sizes improve student outcomes, especially for low-income and minority children.

Based on his review, Mathis finds:

  1. All else being equal, lowering class size will improve student outcomes;
  2. The payoff from class-size reduction is greater for low-income and minority children;
  3. Money saved by increasing class sizes will likely result in additional costs in the future; and
  4. Class sizes between 15 and 18 are recommended, but with variations indicated.

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