Class size matters
One of the main reasons I wrote a book was that there were so many times that I would hear statements by so-called experts about public schools that didn't square with my own experience. Those experts would often claim that their statements were based on some sort of "study" or "research." One of the best examples of this actually came in a book I read after I wrote my own--Jay P. Greene's Education Myths. Greene basically claimed that class size doesn't matter. Well, it does.
Joanne Jacobs ran a post yesterday called "Is TSL the Answer?" which is also based on research, but this is research a teacher could learn to love. This research was done by Bill Ouchi, and it indicates that class size is very important. That squares with the experience of almost any teacher who has spent any amount of time in a classroom.
Oh yes, there are exceptions. One of the worst classes I've ever had was one of the smallest classes I've ever had. It had five or six really disruptive kids, and the motivation of the class as a whole was very low. I'd get a headache just thinking about the class. On the other side of the coin, one of the best classes I ever had was one of the largest classes I ever had--up until the last couple of years, that is. That was a regular American History class with 27 kids, but there was an unusually high number of motivated students in it. That class was an absolute delight. But most classes have more of a mixture of kids--a couple who are pretty motivated, one or two who are mildly disruptive, and a lot who fall somewhere in the middle. In those classes, size definitely matters.
Up until just a few years ago, I was very fortunate. My classes were usually around twenty-two or twenty-three kids. Our school district has had to make cuts, however, so things have changed. This year each of my three regular American History classes have thirty-two kids in them. If anyone thinks its not harder for me to do the kind of job that I want to do, they are out of their minds. My classroom is so crowded with desks that just walking up and down the rows is a challenge. I tend to evaluate just about everything, and correcting papers seems to take forever. In social studies and English, there is nothing like having the students write to bring about and measure learning, but the more kids I have, the less attractive making writing assignments becomes. It also becomes increasingly difficult to try to give the attention to low achievers that might be able to motivate them to do better.
Class sizes have increased throughout our school district during the last several years, and there has been a very noticeable deterioration in the behavior, motivation, and performance of our high school students. Gee, is it possible there's a connection?