The Relationship between School Size, Student Teacher Ratio and School Efficiency

By Alspaugh, John W. | Education, Summer 1994 | Go to article overview

The Relationship between School Size, Student Teacher Ratio and School Efficiency


Alspaugh, John W., Education


Economy of scale is becoming of more concern in the financing of school districts. The relationship between school size and efficiency appears to be dependent on whether the schools are relatively small or relatively large (Butler and Monk, 1985). Increasing school size may or may not lead to increase achievement. Fowler and Walberg (1991) found a negative relationship between school size and some educational outcomes among New Jersey school districts. Increasing the size of small schools may make them more economically efficient. But, when schools become too large there is also a tendency for the schools to become economically inefficient.

The consolidation of smaller districts in order to increase school size has bee the trend for many years. Ornstein (1989) points out that the consequences of the consolidation efforts have lead to controversy. Schools are very complex social and economic organizations. From a social point of view as schools get larger there appears to be a decline in the individual participation of parents and students in school affairs (Green and Stevens, 1988). The effect of school size on achievement may be different for variations in size of small schools as compared to variations in size of relatively large schools.

Walberg and Fowler (1987) emphasize the need to distinguish between spending efficiency and production efficiency. Approximately half of a school districts budget is spent on teacher salaries. Hence a schools spending efficiency is related to the student teacher ratio. Student teacher ratio is a primary factor in economy of scale (Tholkes, 1991). Production efficiency is concerned with student achievement relative to the consumption of school resources. A major proportion of school resources is reflected in the size of the teaching staff.

Rather than look at the relationship between school size and efficiency directly, this study considers the intermediate variable of student teacher ratio in relation to school size. The second part of the investigation explores the relationship between S/T ratio and school efficiency. Teacher salaries as a function of S/T ratio are considered as an indicator of spending efficiency. Th third issue in the study is concerned with the relationship of S/T ratio and student achievement in terms of production efficiency.

Sample School Districts

In order to study the relationship between elementary and secondary student teacher ratios it was necessary to have a sample of school districts with a consistent grade level organization. There are many different grade level organizations employed in the 453 Missouri school districts. Some districts hav a K-8, 9-12 organization. There is a larger group of school districts with either junior high schools or middle schools. The dominate grade level organization is K-6, 7-12 which is employed in 226 of the Missouri school districts. The K-6, 7-12 organization allows the most flexibility in teacher assignments within low enrollment districts. Because of the high correlation between secondary enrollment and student teacher ratio the districts were divided into five enrollment groups based upon their 7-12 enrollments. A random sample of twelve schools was selected for each of the five secondary enrollment groups. By restricting the sample of districts to the K-6, 7-12 organization th findings of this study are limited to considering the economy of scale issue fo small school districts.

Student Teacher Ratio as a Function of School Enrollment

Table 1 contains the means and standard deviations for the elementary and secondary student teacher ratios for the sample schools. S/T ratio is defined t be the number of pupils enrolled in September divided by the number of teachers counselors and librarians. The average class size is a little larger than the S/T ratio. The size of the standard deviations indicate that there is a large amount of variation in the S/T rations within the enrollment groups. …

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