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class size

By hussein90 Oct 23, 2013 1225 Words
Education is a pillar of modern society and
the subject of endless,, often passionate
arguments about how it can best be
improved. In the U.S.,there is heated
debate following revelations that the country’s secondary school students perform poorly relative to many Asian and European
students. The news coincided with increasing concern over the nation’s urban and lower-income suburban schools, too many
of which are languishing at achievement
levels far below those of middle-class and
upper middle-class suburban schools,Of all the ideas for improving education, few are as simple or attractive as reducing
the number of pupils per teacher. With its
uncomplicated appeal and lack of a big powerful group of opponents, class-size reduction has lately developed from a subject of primarily academic interest to a key political issue. In the United States more

than 20 states and the federal government have adopted policies aimed at decreasing class sizes, and billions of dollars have been
spent or committed in the past few years The demand for smaller classes is also growing in Canada, Australia, the United
Kingdom and even Japan, whose record of
secondary school performance is the envy of
most other developed countries. ost other developed countries. The most obvious drawback to class-size
reduction is the huge cost. It requires more
teachers, more classrooms, and more classroom equipment and resources. These expenses can dwarf the price of alternative
schemes, such as testing teachers or increasing their pay as a means of attracting better candidates. The state of California,
for example has been spending more than
$1.5 billion annually over the past several
years to reduce class size to 20 or fewer for
children in the four- to seven-year-old bracket.
On the other hand, if smaller classes really
do work, the economic benefits could be huge. They would accrue not just from the benefits of a better-educated workforce but also from
other sources, such as the avoided medical
costs and sick days of a healthier,more
informed populace. The surge of interest in smaller classes
has spurred fresh analyzes of the largest,most conclusive study to date, which took place in Tennessee in the late 1980s.s. At
the same time, new data are flowing from
various initiatives, including the California
program and a smaller one in Wisconsin.
These results and analyzes are finally offeing some tentative responses to the questions that researchers must answer before legislators can come up with policies that
make educational and economic sense: Do
small classes in fact improve school achievement? If they do, at what age level do they accomplish the greatest good? What kind of
students gain the greatest benefit, and most
importantly, how great is the benefit?
Educators have a multitude of explanations
for why smaller class sizes might be expected to improve academic performance, although frequently the ideas are anecdotal.
Fewer students in the classroom seem to
translate into less noise and disruptive
behavior from students, which not only gives
the teacher more time for class work but
also more freedom to engage students creatively—by, for example, dividing them into groups for specific projects. In addition,
smaller classes make it more likely that the
teacher can give greater individual attention
to struggling students. Smaller classes also
allow teachers to encourage more discussion, assign more writing, and closely examine their students’ written work. In other words, much of the benefit of reduced class
size may depend on whether the teachers
adapt their methods to take advantage of smaller classes. Finally, some analysts believe that the very youngest age group in
smaller classes are more likely to develop
good study habits, higher self-esteem and
possibly other beneficial cognitive traits—
which may very well persist for years, even
after the students have gone back to more
normal-sized classes.
One way investigators have attempted to
analyze the effects of class size is by review ing existing data, such as records kept by the U.S. Department of Education. These show
that between 1969 and 1997, the average
number of pupils per teacher in American
public and private elementary schools fell
from 25.1 to 18.3, a decline of greater than
27%. In secondary schools, the number also
fell, from 19.7 to 14.0. Of concern, however,
is the fact that despite these steep drops in
pupil-teacher ratios, the improvement in academic performance was negligible. Data from the National Assessment of Educational
Progress—a series of tests that is the only
United States-wide indicator of student
knowledge in reading, mathematics, science
and other subjects—show no significant
gains. In some specific age and subject categories, such as 17-year-olds and science, performance actually decreased slightly.
However, these findings do not necessarily
mean that class size makes no difference.
For a variety of reasons, most researchers,
including the writers, pay little attention to
these figures (Figure 1). For instance,
schools strive for more than just high test
scores; they also usually try to keep their
dropout rate low. In fact, the dropout rate
for students aged 16–24 fell from 15 to 11
percent over the period. Because dropouts
generally come from the low end of the
achievement distribution, a reduction in
dropout rate could be expected to pull down
average test scores in the upper grades Another reason for discounting these data goes right to the heart of the difficulties
in this field of study: it is hard to isolate the
effects of class size from the myriad factors
that influence student performance. The
reality is that in 1995 only 68% of
American students came from families with
two parents in the home—down from 85%
in 1970. The fraction of children who had
difficulty speaking English rose from 2.8%
in 1970 to 20.2% in 1995. There was some
good news: the median level of education
among parents increased slightly during
that time period, as did the level among
teachers, whose average amount of
experience also went up.
Basically, demographic shifts make it
very difficult to assess the effect of reductions in pupil–teacher ratios. Well-designed experiments attempt to cancel out the influence of those other factors by randomly assigning students and teachers

to different class sizes and by including
a large sample. Over the past 35 years,
hundreds of studies and analyses of
existing data have focused on class size.
Most found evidence that smaller classes
benefit students, particularly at the
youngest level, and especially children in
danger of becoming underachievers Unfortunately, most of these studies were poorly designed. Teacher and student
assignments were rarely sufficiently random; a number of studies were simply too brief or too small, and too few had independent evaluation. The notable exception was the Tennessee study. The distinguished

Harvard University statistician, Frederick
Mosteller, has called it “one of the greatest
experiments in education in United States
history.” The Student–Teacher Achievement
Ratio, better known as Project STAR, was a
state-sponsored, $12 million demonstration
program (see Figure 1). Students entering
kindergarten were randomly assigned to one
of three kinds of classes:
a small class of 13 to 17 children, a
normal-sized class of 22 to 26 children, or
a normal-sized class with both a teacher
and a full-time teacher’s assistant. The students remained in whatever category they had been assigned to until they had
reached the third grade, after which they
joined a normal classroom in the fourth.
To ensure that teaching quality did not
differ, teachers were randomly assigned to
small and normal-sized classrooms. Few
teachers received any special training for
working with small classes, and there were
no new curricular materials.

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