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ERIC Number: ED536071
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2011-Apr
Pages: 24
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 21
The False Promise of Class-Size Reduction
Chingos, Matthew M.
Center for American Progress
Class-size reduction, or CSR, is enormously popular with parents, teachers, and the public in general. Many parents believe that their children will benefit from more individualized attention in a smaller class and many teachers find smaller classes easier to manage. The pupil-teacher ratio is an easy statistic for the public to monitor as a measure of educational quality, especially before test-score data became widely available in the last decade. Policymakers across the nation, including those in at least 24 states, have taken these ideas to heart and enacted CSR initiatives at costs upward of billions of dollars. These policies, coupled with trends in local school districts, have produced a widespread reduction in the number of students per teacher over the past four decades. Parents, teachers, and policymakers have all embraced CSR as a strategy to improve the quality of public education. There is surprisingly little high-quality research, however, on the effects of class size on student achievement in the United States. The credible evidence that does exist is not consistent, and there are many low-quality studies with results all over the map. The evidence on class size indicates that smaller classes can, in some circumstances, improve student achievement if implemented in a focused way. But CSR policies generally take exactly the opposite approach by pursuing across-the-board reductions in class size at the state or federal level. These large-scale, untargeted policies are also extremely expensive and represent wasted opportunities to make smarter educational investments. The fact that across-the-board CSR policies at the state or district level are not cost-effective does not mean that smaller classes should never be used, but rather that they should be reserved for use in special cases by individual schools. (Contains 1 figure and 38 endnotes.)
Center for American Progress. 1333 H Street NW 10th Floor, Washington, DC 20005. Tel: 202-682-1611; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Elementary Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Authoring Institution: Center for American Progress