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Education Lab Blog

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

October 29, 2014 at 7:00 AM

Does class size matter? Research reveals surprises

Mark Burbank's astronomy class at Mountlake Terrace High School (shown here Thursday, Oct. 23, 2014) has close to 40 kids enrolled, which is an example of the kind of overcrowded classroom that I-1351 on the November ballot would address, but at a cost of billions. Photo by Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times.

Mark Burbank’s astronomy class at Mountlake Terrace High School has close to 40 kids enrolled, which is an example of the kind of overcrowded classroom that I-1351 on the November ballot would address, but at a cost of billions. Photo by Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times.

Few education reforms make as much sense on a gut level as giving teachers fewer students to teach.

The idea is popular with parents and politicians alike — at least 40 states have carried out some kind of class-size reduction in the past 15 years — and the Legislature in Washington has pledged to reduce average class sizes in kindergarten through third grade to 17 students by the fall of 2017.

Initiative 1351 on the Nov. 4 ballot would go even further, lowering average class sizes to 25 for grades four through 12 in Washington’s schools (with smaller sizes for schools where the majority of students come from low-income families).

According to the latest federal data based on teacher surveys, the average class size is 24 in the state’s elementary schools and 30 in secondary schools.

But despite more than four decades of research in the U.S. and abroad, the effects of this simple idea about how to raise student achievement have been hard to isolate and measure, leading to academic squabbles over its value.

Read full story here.

Comments | More in News | Topics: class size

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