New research shows class size affects student outcomes

Assumption College Undergraduate

Class size. It’s a topic many parents worry about when sending their children through school, and it’s one factor future college students look into when they’re choosing a school. Justifiably so.

Many Assumption students thrive in smaller, more intimate classes, where they can cultivate strong relationships with their professors and are comfortable with asking questions and getting assistance without feeling like they’re burdening the rest of a large class.

Simply put, a teacher or professor is able to provide assistance to each individual pupil when the overall number of students in a class is smaller.

Students pursuing a bachelor’s degrees in education observe and student-teach in various types of schools around Worcester — urban and suburban — as well as different classroom settings and sizes. Education majors learn different theories and methodology for encountering classes, both small and large, and how to best reach students in each.

In recent years, several public figures have discredited the importance of class size, but new research from the National Education Policy Center in Boulder, Colorado and Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach of Northwestern University demonstrates the value and importance of student success.

The research brief combines various pieces of academic literature that identifies the “impact of class size and finds that class size is an important determinant of a variety of student outcomes, ranging from test scores to broader life outcomes.”

The brief’s findings include:

  • Class size is an important determinant of student outcomes, and one that can be directly determined by policy. All else being equal, increasing class sizes will harm student outcomes.
  • The evidence suggests that increasing class size will harm not only children’s test scores in the short run, but also their long-run human capital formation. Money saved today by increasing class sizes will result in more substantial social and educational costs in the future.
  • The payoff from class-size reduction is greater for low-income and minority children, while any increases in class size will likely be most harmful to these populations.
  • Policymakers should carefully weigh the efficacy of class-size policy against other potential uses of funds. While lower class size has a demonstrable cost, it may prove the more cost-effective policy overall.

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