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HomeFind a SchoolDefining Your Ideal School

Class Size: Issues to Consider

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By GreatSchools Staff

How Important is Class Size? What Other Factors Should I Consider?

Class size is just one factor to consider when evaluating your school. Keep in mind these other factors:

  • Teacher quality: Regardless of whether or not your school has small classes, you'll want to know if the teachers use effective techniques - such as small group work, hands-on activities, individualized instruction - to engage students in learning. Do the teachers work in grade-level teams? Do more experienced teachers mentor the newer teachers? Do the teachers have the opportunity to learn from each other and from experts in their field?
  • Student load: This term refers to the number of students a teacher is responsible for each day. This is important to consider, particularly in high school, where it makes sense for teachers in language arts classes to have a smaller student load than teachers in math and science. An English teacher who has a student load of 200 is less likely to assign and correct papers than a teacher with a student load of 60. A math teacher, on the other hand, could successfully handle a student load of 100 or more students.
  • Partner teachers/teacher aides/volunteers: Some schools may have larger class sizes but are able to provide quality instruction by having teacher aides, parent and community volunteers, and/or "partner teachers"-an additional teacher in the classroom for part or all of the school day. By effectively using these adults, schools can improve morale for teachers and provide the necessary attention for students. Be aware that these additional adults, who may play a vital role in the classroom, are generally not included in class size and student-teacher ratio statistics. Ask at your school how partner teachers, teacher aides and volunteers are employed in the classroom.
  • School size: School size may be as important as class size in influencing student behavior, especially in the upper grades. A study entitled "The Hobbit Effect: Why Small Works in Public Schools" showed that students in small schools are more likely to be academically successful, take more advanced level courses and participate in extracurricular activities.

Questions Parents Should Ask

Want to know more about class size and how it relates to student achievement at your school and in your school district? Ask questions like these of your school administrators, school site council and local school board:

  • How does your school district determine the average class size or student-teacher ratio? Does the number include all staff or just the classroom teachers?
  • What's the difference between the size of your child's class and the average class size?
  • How does the average class size compare to other districts and to the state average?
  • Regardless of the class size, do teachers make an effort to provide individual attention to all students?
  • How can I make sure my child gets the right amount of attention?
  • Will budget cuts to education have an effect on class size at my school?
  • What can I do as a parent to work with my child's teacher?

 

 

 


Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

12/23/2008:
"This article is trying to justify large class size. Smaller class size is better. So is individualizing."
08/13/2008:
"Thanks so much for this article! My son is entering a kindergarten class of 25 students to one teacher and I am very worried! This article gave me a new perspective, that it isn't all about size, more about the bigger picture. Now I know what to be looking out for and how much emphasis to place on class sizes in the future! The Gates foundation link was so interesting and helpful!"
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