PREPARED BY DEBRA HEATH FEBRUARY 2006
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF ELEMENTARY SCHOOL SIZE
All of the research findings cited in this Brief refer to elementary schools. Some studies focus exclusively on elementary schools. Other studies present results on elementary schools in combination with secondary schools. The findings cited in this Brief represent dozens of studies conducted in a range of settings. Kathleen Cotton reviewed 103 studies. Klonsky’s review references at least 40 different studies.
Recommended School Size • On average, research indicates that an effective size for an elementary school is in the range of 300-400 students.1 Academic Achievement • Student achievement in small schools is at least equal, and often superior, to student achievement in large schools. 1 ♣ Student Attitudes • Student attitudes toward school in general and toward particular subjects are better in small schools compared to large ones. 1 Student Behavior • Small schools have lower incidences of negative social behavior than do large schools. 1 Effects on Minority and Low-Income Students • The effects of small schools on the academic achievement of ethnic minority students and students from low-income families are especially positive. In other words, large schools have a more negative impact on minority and low-income students than on students in general.1 • School size has a particularly strong influence on student attitudes about school among lowincome and minority students. 1 • The social behavior of ethnic minority and low-income students is even more positively impacted by small schools than that of other students. 1 ♣
Achievement measures used in the research include school grades, test scores, honor roll membership, subject-area achievement, and assessment of higher-order thinking skills.
The Significance of Elementary School Size
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Teacher Attitudes • Compared to large schools, smaller...