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Class size

Ah, perhaps a bit of clarification regarding Weitz’s commentary regarding 
information provided by Bob West—specifically regarding class size.

There actually is a significant body of research that has been conducted on 
class size which demonstrates a positive effect upon student achievement in 
classes around 20.  Most notably is the meta-analysis studies by Smith & 
Glass (1978), followed with similar investigations by Robinson & Wittebols 
(1986), and Slavin (1989).  A more recent study by Wenglinsky (1997) 
examining data from over 180 school districts across the US supports 
conclusions mentioned above.  In addition, several large-scale longitudinal 
studies in the states of Indiana & Tennessee (Prime Time, 1984, STAR, 1985, 
and Project Challenge (1990) also provide significant evidence supporting 
small class size correlated with positive student achievement.

With that said (and as with all research), there are certainly 
investigations which do not support the aforementioned studies.  In most 
cases the samples were small, extraneous variables were not controlled, and 
the conclusions were invariably tied to ‘significant extra costs are not 
worth the increases in achievement’.  My and the rest of my community’s 
children are certainly worth the $8-$10 or even $50 more per month to 
maintain a quality educational environment.

Here is a nice overview of the research:

What is also ignored is the input from the professionals: the teachers who 
manage both small and large classrooms.  Through the years I have heard 
comments from community patrons, legislators, business-persons, and parents 
suggesting that, based on their 1-hour visits, that having a large classroom 
is not really a problem.  Which is the same as saying, upon concluding a 
1-hour visit to a hospital ER during a quiet period, that there really are 
not very many people who require emergency services so why spend the money?

Just think for a minute about being confronted with the daunting task of 
managing the educational, social, emotional, and psychological well-being of 
20, much less 30 or 35 students for a 7-8 hour block of time; and, not have 
the monies to really be able to do what you could do (educationally), AND be 
paid a rather small salary to do this.  Now do this every day.  And spend 
time on the weekends and holidays and summers to ‘upgrade’ professional 
skills and knowledge.  You are just beginning to understand the concept of 

Intuitively, you realize that smaller class = higher quality environment 
yielding a more positive overall experience—that being achievement, to say 
the least.  All of this of course assumes that you have a qualified, 
knowledgeable, caring person as the teacher—that is a given.  Does that mean 
that with the class of 20 you will still have some people who do not achieve 
as they could or should?  Of course.  So listen to what your professional 
educators (Moscow teachers) say—they know very well what they are talking 
about.  Do you rely on advice from your doctor, lawyer, dentist, 
fire-persons, police electrician, and plumber (I left out a lot—not 
intended)?  Absolutely—or, we get a second opinion. . . right?

With all that has been presented, please remember the mandate in the US: 
provide a free, equal, and non-discriminatory educational 
environment/experience for all children (through about 16 depending on the 
state) regardless of race, color, creed, ethics, religion, socioeconomic 
status, or physical/emotional/cognitive disability.  It is truly amazing 
what we do in the US—if in doubt, go to most any public school in most any 
other country and see if they do exactly the same. . .

With all that is being decided upon for the upcoming levy (and well into the 
future) we need to be careful about obtaining and presenting information.  
In this case, it is more than just reasonable to support the concept of 
maintaining smaller class size—that is a variable we can control and have 
done so quite well thus far in Moscow.


John Davis

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