This week the American Psychological Association reports on a study published by the Journal of Education Psychology which found that smaller class sizes "yield big rewards at graduation time -- especially for at-risk students".
Study authors Jeremy D. Finn, Ph.D., and Susan B. Gerber, Ph.D., of the University at Buffalo-The State University of New York and Jayne Boyd-Zaharias, Ed.D., of HEROS, Inc., tracked nearly 5,000 students from kindergarten through the 12th grade in 165 schools in connection with Tennessee’s class-size experiment of the 1980’s. The experiment, known as Project STAR, involved randomly assigning students entering kindergarten to a small class (13-17 students), to a full-size class (22-26 students), or to a full-size class with a full-time teacher aide within each participating school. The class size was maintained throughout the day and all year long. Students were kept in the same class arrangement for up to four years, with a new teacher assigned at random to the class each year.
Results show that for all students combined, four years in a small class in K-3 were associated with an 11.5 percent increase in high school graduation rates. This effect was even greater for low socio-economic students (students who were receiving free lunches). In fact, after four years in a small class, the graduation rate for free-lunch students was as great as or greater than that for non-free lunch students (more than doubling the odds of graduating). The study also revealed a strong relationship between mathematics and reading achievement in K-3 and graduation from high school.
“Our results contradict arguments that just one year in a small class is enough to reap long-term academic benefits,” says Dr. Finn. “Three or four years of small classes are needed to affect graduation rates, and three or four years have been found necessary to sustain long-term achievement gains.”
This just makes good sense to me, especially in the younger grades where vital foundational skills are being taught. Smaller classes mean more individualized attention and encouragement. Maybe all those 'consultant' teachers Jon Crisp mentioned should be sent into classrooms.