Are There Too Many Kids In Your Child's Class?

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Teachers and parents alike hope for small class sizes. Both groups see small class sizes as a way to reduce the overall workload for a teacher, thereby allowing them to provide more attention for students.  This can lead you as a parent to get concerned when you find out how many students are in your child's class.  

You may think to yourself about how difficult it would be if you were to have 25 third graders or even 40 high school students packed into one classroom at a time.

 If you are wondering why schools would have so many students per class, the answer is money.  Paying for more teachers and maintaining more classrooms can be very expensive, and it really may not be the best use of the money school districts have available.

How Can You Tell If Your Child's Class Is Too Big?

Educational research has not identified any perfect class size cut off points, so there isn't one specific recommendation that will work everywhere. A 2011 review of education policy researchers Matthew Chingos and Grover Whitehurst explained several different factors that go into how successful different size classes can be.  Going over the factors can help you determine if the class size is appropriate or not.  

The researchers seemed to consider class sizes large when they were over 25 students in kindergarten or first grade, thirty students in third through fifth grade, and over 40 students for the remaining grades.

1.  The Grade Level of The Classroom 

Kindergarten and first graders are just getting started in their educations.  They are learning the very basic building blocks of reading, writing and math that the rest of their education will rely on to continue.  Additionally, these young children are still learning how to behave and get along with other children in school.

 

Research shows that when these classes are limited in size to less than 20 students, the children do indeed learn more during the early years, are more successful throughout their schooling, and are more likely to attend college.  

2. The Experience and Education of The Teacher  

This seems to be the most important factor for how effective a teacher can be when class sizes increase.  Research shows that in countries with fewer requirements to become a teacher do benefit from smaller class sizes.  Countries that do have high standards to qualify to become a teacher found that there was little or no benefit to reducing class sizes.

The takeaway is that reducing class sizes is only really effective when  a teacher has little experience or does not have a high-level understanding of teaching. In most US public schools teachers at least have a bachelor's degree and will have aa semester of mentored classroom teaching experience before they can be hired as a regular classroom teacher.  Teachers who have masters degrees and years of experience may not enjoy the increased workload, but can still be very effective in classes with a large number of students.

Teachers who are in the early stages of their career can benefit greatly by taking advantage of any professional development or mentoring available.  

3.  The Number and Nature of Students Who Historically Have Had Difficulty Succeeding In School

These are the students who are experiencing any number of situations that can make it hard to succeed in school.  This includes students with unique learning needs that require and IEP or 504.  It also includes students from low-income homes where the parents may be too busy trying to earn money to stay afloat to have a great deal of time to support their children's education.  Students coming from families that have not achieved a high level of education themselves can fall into this group.

Research shows that classes with a high percentage of these at-risk students do benefit when class sizes are reduced.   There are also numerous research studies using other methods to help this wide variety of students become successful, including after-school tutoring programs and parent support classes.   It may be that providing other avenues of support provide greater benefit than reducing class size.  Still, the greater the percentage of at-risk students, the more effective a teacher can be when the class size is reduced.

4.  The Student-Teacher Ratio

If you have decided to do some research on how schools compare, you may have noticed that some places report class size while others report student teacher ratios.  The class size is how many students in a particular class group;.  The student teacher ratio defines how many students to the number of teaching and assisting adults in the class.  If the class uses co-teachers or in-class tutors, the number of students to teachers drops quickly.  These classes are already benefitting from having more available help for each student.

If you have read over this article and you are still concerned about the size of your child's class, find ways to get involved with your child's school  You can volunteer in the classroom.  You can also advocate to state and local policy leaders to reduce class sizes.

<sub> Chingos, M., & Whitehurst, G. ". (2011, May 11). Class Size: What Research Says and What it Means for State Policy. Retrieved February 29, 2016, from http://www.brookings.edu/research/papers/2011/05/11-class-size-whitehurst-chingos </sub>

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