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Education Lab Blog

Education Lab is a yearlong project to spark meaningful conversations about education solutions in the Pacific Northwest.

November 20, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Which is better: Smaller class sizes for all or more students for strong teachers?

A new article in The Atlantic raises an ongoing question about class sizes: Is it better to put a lot of students in the classroom of an excellent teacher, or lower class sizes for all teachers?

That debate has been going on for some time, and, despite the conclusion of a new report described in The Atlantic, probably will continue.

The report, based on a simulation of data from North Carolina, says that excellent teachers are a better investment than small class sizes.

Michael Hansen of the Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research (CALDER) conducted the study, which was sponsored by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative think tank.

Hansen, using test-score data, looked at what could happen if the top 25 percent of teachers taught more students, and weaker teachers taught fewer. One of the assumptions, which Hansen lists in the appendix under “methodological limitations,” is that teachers will get the same results even if their class sizes grow.

Meanwhile, a new group in this state, Class Size Counts, cites research that concludes that students would benefit greatly from smaller class sizes. And as part of its push to lower class sizes in this state, the group has put together a map and list of the size of nearly 5,100 classes around the state.

The bottom line? The unsatisfying, but probably realistic statement made in The Atlantic: The research remains mixed.

Comments | More in News, Your voices | Topics: CALDER, class size, Class Size Counts

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