Class Size Doesn't Ensure Better Grades, Studies Say
Billups, Andrea, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
Reducing class size has not made a dramatic impact on student achievement, according to two new studies of an educational issue that has polarized lawmakers, parents, teachers and researchers.
A report from the Heritage Foundation in Washington, using data from a national reading test, found that on average, smaller classes don't increase the likelihood that students will post higher scores.
Children in classes with 20 or fewer students per teacher did no better on reading exams than those in classes with 31 or more students, said Heritage researcher Kirk Johnson, who analyzed data from the 1998 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests.
The NAEP exams are given in core subjects every two years to students in the fourth, eighth and 12th grades in 39 states. Mr. Johnson analyzed the NAEP data on six factors: class size, race and ethnicity, parents' education, reading materials in a student's home, gender and participation in free or reduced-price lunch programs. "Class size . . . pales in comparison with the effects of many factors not included in the NAEP data, such as teacher quality and teaching methods," Mr. Johnson said. "It is certainly not the cure-all for academic achievement."
President Clinton has continued his push for hiring 100,000 new teachers to lower the student-teacher ratio in the nation's classrooms, an initiative supported by Al Gore, the likely Democratic presidential nominee. The National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers also have been outspoken supporters of class-size reduction as an important step in boosting student achievement.
But Mr. Johnson and Heritage education policy analyst Nina Shokraii Rees found that hiring 100,000 new teachers would barely make a dent in lowering the number of students per teacher. With 46.8 million public school students and 2.8 million teachers, they said, the current ratio stands at 16.8 to 1. Even with the additional teachers wanted by Mr. …