Why aren’t us parents seeing any benefit in smaller class sizes?

I have just responded to this post by a parent:

As a parent, the Bloomfield Public School system has sold smaller class sizes as part of their narrative. The experience of my two children has been a DECREASE in group interaction and all of the other good things that should be occurring in a classroom. Individual interaction is also on the decline.

Am I alone in this suboptimal experience?

As a Principal I was “sold” by teachers that smaller classes would achieve better results – reducing in the K-2 classes was also supported financially by the state. By reducing we mean K-2 classes from 25 to 19-20 and senior classes (3-6) from 29 wish to 25. This took a lot of resources (e.g. no special ed teacher, reducing other interventions for targeted small group support (2-4), reducing several budgets e.g. in external professional learning) and over a 5 year period didn’t produce significant academic improvements.

So I redirected some of these resources away from 2-6 grades into targeted instructional improvements that the data suggested we needed to make (e.g. spelling). The resources (increased professional learning, in class coaching provided, more teaching  resources and a new spelling program – Words their Way). Results went up both initially and over time. We measured both overall scores and students and group growth rates against state growth rates.

However to note that this wasn’t the only intervention occurring at that time (e.g. restorative practices to improve the relationships between teachers and students and students and students, targeted small group interventions in reading in year 1 and 2, professional learning in using data more formatively to adjust instruction and curriculum were just some of the other interventions). I really liked Elmore’s thinking that you need to change all 3 things (relationships, curriculum and instruction) at the same time to have an effect.

Parents saw results but I didn’t manage some of their expectations too well (e.g. why can’t you do this across all disciplines at the same time and tomorrow) but that’s another story.

PS in the spirit of being balanced I have also provided these links which explores the effect or otherwise of class size:

Class Size and Student Achievement: Research Review.

Class size

Hattie and Class Size

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6 Responses to Why aren’t us parents seeing any benefit in smaller class sizes?

    • mwalker says:

      Hi Sue,
      Yes I remember Magnolia and the classes were really small. My memory of the teachers I saw was that they were engaged with the children in close relationships which maybe accounts for the test scores although I would add that you and Hank would account for results as well – and yes we have had this conversation. The vacation sounds fantastic. I’m off the Hong Kong shortly for Anthony’s 60th which will be nice.

Interested in your thoughts