Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Maybe small class sizes aren't the magic bullet

Conventional wisdom holds that smaller class sizes will yield higher academic performance. But is that CW based on reality?

Recent studies in Chicago's public schools seem to indicate that maybe size doesn't matter, even though the idea that "small is beautiful" is so intuitively appealing. The Chicago Sun-Times asks "Honey, Should We Shrink the Kids'Classrooms?", and then follows up with "Schools are Top Scorers But Have Jammed Classes." (via Edspresso.com, JoanneJacobs.com and the Instructivist)

"The 25 highest-scoring schools in CPS [Chicago Public Schools] average roughly seven more kids in their primary classrooms than the 25 highest-scoring suburban schools, or about 27 kids vs. 20, a Chicago Sun-Times analysis of state public school data indicates.

That's seven more kids in a CPS room just as children are learning everything from how to read to how to sit quietly at a desk and do classwork. Compared with the statewide primary average, it's roughly six more kids."

It's probably not as simple as pegging our hopes for increased performance on a classroom size number. Teacher quality, the school climate and culture, parental involvement -- all of these factors can improve academic performance. But its just so easy sounding....


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