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Class Size: Is Bigger Better?


When it comes to class size, the popular consensus seems to be that smaller is better. Everybody, from parents and teachers to administrators and unions, supports the idea of smaller classes.

Yet, while the logic behind the smaller-is-better approach may seem obvious, empirical evidence and research on class size are decidedly mixed.

In his Nov. 2 Education Week Commentary, Saul Cooperman suggests that individualization is more intention than reality. He argues that, in reality, actually increasing class size would be more cost effective and would allow schools to attract more qualified teachers by offering higher salaries.

Where do you stand on this issue? Are bigger class sizes really better?


I have taught in Texas for 24 years before moving to California. In Texas my largest class was 24. When I got here the average ran from 36 - 40 students per class. The actual teaching them did not make much of a difference how many were in the class but trying to keep up with grading for 200 students per day instead of 120 was overwhelming. You must also keep up with all the make up work and callin parents and student conferences. Absolutely smaller classes are better unless each teacher has an aide to help keep up with the paper work. I lasted nine days and decided staying up to 2:00 each morning was not going to be possible. I take a lot of time to prepare interesting lessons and I was having to spend too much time staying caught up with grading, making phone calls etc.

This is my first year at the high school level and while most of my classes are between 35 and 40 students, I do have one class of 46 students that contains every grade level, inclusion special needs (mild), and a huge variance in ability levels. I strongly disagree with both Saul Cooperman and the posted response. In the long run, the decided lack of being able to even adequately reach such a large number of students will cost the school in terms of test results, class performance, but most importantly, connecting with and helping to build the students' character. Teaching goes beyond presenting material - connection to the students to promote the lesson and learning should be paramount. Connection cannot be achieved with 35+ students in a classroom and nor should a teacher have to be subjected to the expectation that a large class size is desirable.

Upon moving to California six years ago, I was stunned when I was told that I would have 35+ students in my high school science classes. When I thought about prepping and taking down lab activities/experiments for 175-180 students, reading & responding to all those lab reports (building critical thinking & science literacy), grading all those quizzes & tests (covering content matter), designing relevant lessons (engaging student interest, motivation)I realized there would be no time to get to know my students as I did in previous situations where class size rarely exceeded 25. (This doesn't even take into consideration parent contact---engaging the community). Class size really, really does make a difference. While those who argue that smaller classes do not allow for 'individualized' instruction are correct, no one claims that it will. For that we need tutors.

Smaller class size does allow the teacher to attend to quality of instruction, feedback, and interaction w/students. No amount of 'evidence' that class size makes no difference will convince me that the quality of instruction, particularly in a state as diverse as California, does not suffer when class size exceeds 25.

The size of the class depends on the subject matter, the level of the students and whether the school can supply teacher aides. When I taught ESL students and at-risk students smaller classes and/or teacher aides were vital. When I taught drama and speech larger classes were fine.

The effects of class size are possibly related to the subject matter being taught, although I am not convinced that this is the case.
The obvious conditions that matter for the teacher are the time and energy required to keep up with more interactions with students, grading and feedback to students, other assorted paperwork, conferences, etc. Additionally, larger numbers of students require more planning and preparation for the organization, operation, and management of classes.
It further matters in terms of how classes are taught and how the assessments of learning are constructed and conducted. In highly student oriented classes, where the teacher guides student learning while allowing students time for problem solving, research, collaboration, discussions - all the strategies that we know should be done to keep students interested, movtivated, and thinking on their own - numbers do matter. In the literature, there is definitely controversy about this, especially at middle and secondary levels. This may well be due to difficulties involved with the assessments given to students to try to isolate and measure only the effects of class size. Typically, assessments measure content knowledge and predictable thinking patterns. With this type of assessment, students in smaller classes may not reflect higher achievement. Most assessments do not adequately measure abilities to problem solve, apply information to new situations, think creatively, collaborate with peers, reflect, and other abilities that are worthy of development in our students yet difficult to manage with larger numbers of students. Nor do they reflect the attitudes of a student who, in a smaller class has a greater opportunity for many positive interactions with a teacher as opposed to one in a class with more students.
Some of the research done by PDK and reflected in their TESA model indicates the importance of high expectations for all students and the understanding by the student that the teacher has those high expectations. These are indicated to the student by such teacher actions as "calling on all students to answer higher level questions," providing individual praise and reasons for praise, providing appropriate time for students to answer questions, "delving" when the student needs help, meanwhile keeping the attention of all the other students. The TESA model stresses the importance of "proximity," or being within arm's reach of all students at some time during the class period, "individual helping," and many other interactions that would be diminished as class size increases.
Yes, class size matters. Providing scientific proof of that through research is difficult and challenging and probably the research to show the extent of the correlation has not been designed at this point. Meanwhile, for those who provide funding, and want to find someway to avoid the increased costs of additional teachers, classrooms, etc., it is an easy smokescreen behind which to hide.
The Georgia Science Teachers Association is currently involved in these types of discussions with our State BOE, Governor, and General Assembly. We are "gaining some ground," but it's a slow process. I will meet this morning with the Governor's Education Director to discuss these very issues. Hopefully, it will be a positive interaction.

As a classroom teacher at a variety of levels, class size does make a difference. If a teacher truly cares and wants to help children succeed, a smaller class size will make a difference. if you are going to be a slug, then you can put as many as you want in a class. For some reason, the children we meet today in schools are very needy, perhaps because of the break-down of the family, and need special help.

Smaller class size does matter, but only if it is accompanied by a change in the way instruction is delivered. In our district we are attempting to tie a movement to smaller class size in high school English classes (from the high 20s to the mid 20s) to an increase in the amount of writing students do and the quality of feedback they receive. Without reducung class size, it will be impossible for teachers to upgrade their writing instruction, but class size should not be reduced to merely make record keeping easier. We must see the smaller class sizes result in better learning.

What about the 2 and 3 room schools of yesteryear? Students had a preview and review every day of every topic. There was less fear of new subject material and many times interest of the more advanced material was generated by exposure to the material a year, two years, even three years in advance. Memorization was a tool: students had to stand and repeat math tables, spelling, and geographical information – they had to stand and read the reading assignments. Behavior problems were at a minimum because older students could see you misbehave and siblings/relatives/friends would tell parents and the student's parents knew about the misdeeds before the student got home.

Obviously, if the school was 2 or 3 rooms, the classes were small in size – I remember one graduating class had only 4 people while mine had all of 16. But, for each subject, there were three or four levels being taught and the teacher took each level individually. This was grade school level. (High school had a graduating class of 61, if I remember correctly.)

Speaking from an educator’s point of view, the size of the class becomes immaterial when misbehavior is allowed by circumstance. No learning only frustration on the part of students who want to learn and on the part of teachers who want to teach and in doing so learn each day.

There are probably more important issues than class size, at least in the primary grades. With heterogeneous classes of fewer than 20 students, a gifted student is probably all alone in his or her class. Is that good? Educators talk about developmentally appropriate activities, yet children are put into groups according to their chronological age, not according to their development in the various subjects we teach. In the primary grades, flexible grouping and regrouping within a matter of weeks or months might make more difference than size of a class, expecially if teachers and teaching assistants collaborated so they could become experts in some fields instead of trying to teach all and mastering none.

A big issue is what we expect teachers to do. If we expect them to continue learning and growing as professionals, they have to have the time and energy to do the mental work required for that growth. Class size certainly has an impact on that, though probably more for the upper grades, where grading papers is such a major time and energy consuming task.

From personal experience, class size makes a definite difference in the instructors ability to address the individual needs of learners, in particular for special education students. I agree that practices that only focus on whole group instruction probably will not show significant differences in student performance despite class size but the formative assessment for students can be very different even in this situation.

Research done in Texas indicates that science laboratory classes larger than 24 tend to have a greater number of accidents resulting in student injuries and many teachers will tell you that over 28 students means they do fewer actually field and laboratory investigations with students due to safety and materials/supplies issues.

Even large music classes and athletics classes are supported by additional personnel and/or smaller focused classes to address more individual student needs. For someone to say class size does not make a difference tells me they have not taught a class that requires a lot of student/teacher interaction.

I am not certain we have enough data to make this decision. I was teaching in California when the legislature gave the bonus money to reduce class sizes. What accompanied was a flood of not highly qualified teachers joining the profession. Teacher quality will always be foremost in making a difference. Will higher salaries provide this? Not sure - but the other ancillary components of larger classes (fewer hands-on labs/activities, fewer assignments graded appropriately, etc.) will be certain steps backward if the teacher quality remains status quo.

OK - how many of us believe that 30 is a small class? I know that I do. And I believe that other teachers in places like California do, too. I would love to have a class where the number of seats equal the number of students. Or a science lab group of 3 instead of 5 or 6. So how about studies that compare 30 to 40 students, not ones that compare 20 to 30. And who of us teaching upwards of 40 students in a class really saw an increase in our salaries? As energy costs, supplies costs, rapid growth in student populations, etc increase every year, I see my district balance their budget by slowly and steadily increasing the number of students that I teach each year. And this increase in the number of students I teach has not resulted in an increased salary. Just horrible working conditions and more students coming to my classroom with poor skills in reading, writing, math, and lacking in the development of important skills such as problem solving and critical thinking.

With all due respect to Mr. Cooperman, it seems obvious that he has been out of the classroom a bit too long...

The empirical research may be thin as to the affect of smaller class sizes. However, any teacher who has taught classes of 45+, with case loads of 190 - 220 students, and has also taught in classes of 18-25, with case loads of 100 - 150, knows full well that the impact they can have on the smaller load is dramatically larger.

Teaching is much more than dollar-cost-averaging and efficiency. To really reach a child, to really engage a child - especially those that have been disaffected for one reason or another - requires creating a relationship with that child. That is nearly impossible under the opine that Mr. Cooperman portrays in his clinical, economically centered article.

His commentary is not heretical, as he suggests, just inane.

We agree that teachers need significant training in methods for differentiation, individualization and project-based learning. However, all the training in the world, in these subjects, will not affect a teacher who is so overwhelmed with paperwork, grading and reporting for 180 or more children, that he/she can barely catch their breath - let alone plan and implement new techniques and tailor individualized instruction.

Mr. Cooperman, apparently, defines education as such; children are in the classroom to receive information, which originates from the teacher, and then regurgitate that information on some measuring device. Dollar-cost efficiency, therefore, must take a front seat when considering methodology and staffing. How sad - but how prevalent this view is today!

Mr. Cooperman also states that schools that are more cost efficient could offer higher salaries, thus attracting better-qualified teachers. Mr. Cooperman clearly does not understand what motivates teachers to seek and take the jobs they do! Most teachers - and by that I mean the overwhelming majority of teachers - will take a job for less pay, if they can have smaller classes, less stress and can have a better work environment, by creating and nurturing relationships with their students! Just ask them.

Better teachers get the best of both worlds when they take jobs in suburban schools - better pay and better working conditions. However, Mr. Cooperman needs to actually go to one of those suburban schools - say like Bloomfield Hills, MI - and ask the best teachers there the following question; 'If we raised your salary 25%, would you leave your job at Bloomfield Hills, with your average class size of 22, to go teach at Detroit Public Schools, with an average class size of 38.' (Notice the question does not even address the disparate access to resources.)

I think we all know what the answer to that question would be, for the overwhelming majority of teachers.

There are many awesome and dedicated teachers in the urban school systems, to be sure! Many of them are far superior to their suburban peers - especially when you consider the working conditions that they toil in. However, even those altruistic giants would tell you, in a minute, that they could be more effective with smaller classes and better resources.

Better yet, Mr. Cooperman should ask, 'What would the salary have to be, for you to accept the assignment?’ Or, 'under what conditions - salary and work environment - would you be willing to leave your cushy suburban job and take the urban job. Then he may begin to understand that salary is not the major motivator for teachers, like it is for so many in the private sector.

I would question whether the author has spent time in an classroom with increased numbers of students. Has he tried to teach to larger classes, while managing student behaviors? Has he done the grading, phone calling, and interventions needed all while trying to prepare future lessons and fulfilling the increasing responsibilities districts and building administrators demand of teachers? I understand the logic, but, even at the college level we know large classes correlate into missed opportunities for students. We certainly expect more from our schools, for our children, than that.

I would question whether the author has spent time in a classroom with increased numbers of students. Has he tried to teach to larger classes, while managing student behaviors? Has he done the grading, phone calling, and interventions needed all while trying to prepare future lessons and fulfilling the increasing responsibilities districts and building administrators demand of teachers? I understand the logic, but, even at the college level we know large classes correlate into missed opportunities for students. We certainly expect more from our schools, for our children, than that.

I speak as a parent, former teacher, and counselor. As a teacher I remember distinctly (then US Dept of Education Secretary ) William Bennett's remarks that class size didn't have much effect on classroom learning. Since most learning occurs between the teacher and the student, individual class size as well as a teacher's overall student count impact the finite amount of time we each have on this planet to spend in contact with other individuals. The lack of definitive data on the impact of class size is more a function of the large number of variables at work when trying to assess student success. To non-education professionals who would dispute the impact of class size, I simply ask this question: "All other factors being equal, do you think it is as easy to parent 12 children as it is to parent 4?"

How insulting it is to me as a person who scored a 27 on her ACT (not genius but respectable)and has earned a master's degree plus many additional hours...that you would assume if you paid people more money you would get "brighter, higher quality teachers". I (and many others like me)chose education because of my belief in the importance of it. Paying me more wouldn't change a thing. Quite frankly I could have been anything I wanted to. I chose teaching and I am no dummy. Money is not the end all be all and it certainly does not buy happiness and satisfaction. Education is a vocation not a job!

There is no "magic" class size except for special needs students and science lab work and the amount of paperwork for the instructor. The make-up of the class is the difference. A class of 18 can be a challenge if it contains students with discipline problems, while a class of 30 with attentive students would not be a problem except for the amount of paperwork needed depending on the subject matter being taught. (In Iowa, 30 would be considered a large class.)

I second (and third) what my fellow educators have expressed above: class size does make a difference, for all of the reasons already mentioned. One that was left out & I think is extremely important: effective classroom management is vital to successful teaching and learning. I would ask those who have never tried managing 45 13 year-olds, much less teaching them something: What do you want going on in our nation's classrooms - genuine learning and personal growth or simple crowd control?

When I started teaching English to at-risk students in 1988, my average class size was 25. When I quit more than a dozen years later, my average class size was 36 and we were expected to teach 6 classes instead of 5 on a block schedule. I had no problem with the level of pay. However, I found I could no longer effectively teach up to 200 students. I could not maintain meaningful contact with parents, I could not assign and grade adequate written work, and classroom management became more difficult with virtually no space to move around the room. I won awards for my teaching excellence, but I am no longer an educator. The larger class loads are encouraging high quality teachers to leave the profession regardless of pay.

I'd like to address one of Mr Cooperman's assumptions, especially since it seems to be the universal explanation for problems in education.

It is the idea that higher teacher salaries would attract better teachers. Frankly, the best teachers are already in the system! People seem to think we teach because we can't get a higher paying job somewhere else; that is insulting and completely incorrect. We stay, regardless of the salary, because we are dedicated to our students and to their success, and we find fulfillment in knowing we make a difference each and every day we are at work. There isn't a dollar value on that. Those who leave to get a higher salary somewhere else leave because they no longer want to teach, and anything said to the contrary is just an excuse.

Higher salaries won't change that; what they would do is create an artificial need filled by people attracted to $$. After a couple years of "the real world of teaching" these people would move on to a job that gives them that high paycheck without all the baggage that comes with teaching.

And one of those bags is huge class sizes. The problem isn't just one of numbers; it's also one of space. Most school classrooms are designed for a certain number of kids and when you pack too many in, there will be numerous problems: seating, behavior, safety, limited activities. And all those affect the quality of teaching--notice I said teachING, not teachERS.

One of the problems of researching in schools is trying to match the variables. We are just beginning to apply research that tells us what the most effective teaching strategies are. And yes, most of them do not have anything to do with the number of kids in the room. However, when it comes to time management and record-keeping, the numbers make a BIG difference. And if those take precedence over teaching, no teacher, no matter what their salary, can provide the highest quality classroom instruction that they are capable of.

We that are experienced Educators know that children learn best when the class size is small and when there is "indivdualized" instructions or teaching. If there would be a need for some schools to increase class size, I recommend that "qualified Aide/s" be hired and assigned to the classroom, thus while increasing class sizes we want lose the "quality" of educatiion our children so desperately need. I feel those who are suggesting or deciding to increase the classroom size to 30 or more (25 is to large without a permanent Aide) should be tasked to teach a class of 30 Jr. high chlidren for a month then make the decision whether it's "developmentally appropriate" for the class size to be increased.

Research has confirmed that smaller learning communities contribute to the academic performance of all students especially students who receive student centered teaching and learning methods. However,for private and elite schools the "small class size" model is the norm for teaching and inspiring the academic success and leadership for their students. Money does not have to dilute the effectiveness of small class size. Teachers should not be paid according to the number of students in their classes but paid based on the quality and results of their work.
With the genius qualities that are within us, I am certain that we can identify other methods for paying teachers their worth without abusing the class size.

Let's follow Mr. Cooperman's logic: If MDs had larger work loads the federal government would save $$ and lower taxes (is there a correlation between MD workload and health?), we can reduce the size of police forces and pay individual cops more(do more cops mean lower crime?), the same for fire departments ... and, of course, I'm sure Mr. Cooperman is seeking schools for his children that have larger class sizes. Smaller class size alone does not guarantee higher student schievement, however, larger class size results in higher teacher turnover rates and a host of other ills that impact negatively on children. School size matters, class size matters, (www.smallschoolsproject.org, www.newvisions.org) - in addition we must infuse schools with a culture of learning, from the principal down to the kids and support that culture. We know a great deal about learning organizations (see Peter Senge's work)- we just have to convince local policymakers to implement strategies that we know work, and sustain them. Failing schools are real expensive when you factor in the lifelong costs of a failed education.

I believe several of the comments before mine have addressed the simple and complex issues of class size and they have done so intelligently.

I guestion the importance of the question. I especially question it in relationship to school finances. For me, what is wrong with school financing cannot be resolved with cutting a teacher here and there to change class size. That may greatly impact teacher moral and student success, but financing schools has more to do with political power and special interests than anything else.

If Americans valued their children like they value their cars, televisions, sports, and cell phones, there would not be a shortage of funding and no need for the class size discussion. Schools would be able to meet the needs of every child and do so in exceptional ways.

Have any of the rest of you noticed the amount of scrutiny this country puts into education and how few resources are actually spent to support student success? Has America developed an emotional disturbance regarding education?

Class size impacts the individual student. Students are more likely to participate in class and receive more attention from the teacher in a smaller class. From personal experience on a high school level a class size of about 20 is perfect. You have a nice mix for class discussion and cooperative learning. The class is also small enough that you have time to touch base with each individual student. Students learn if they know you care about them as individuals. Also think about the grading----the students spend a lot of time writing up a lab report----I need be able to write individual comments and corrections that will improve their skills. Teachers are human ---not superhuman.

As a future educator and student myself, smaller class sizes are definitely better than larger class sizes. With larger class sizes, there can be discipline issues along with students getting lost, or easily distracted by other students. It is harder to control larger classes and give students individualized attention, however no matter what the class size, that can be a hard goal to achieve. Larger class sizes may be more effective for the "school" and the "teachers salary" but is it for the students? Aren't they the reason why we all teach or plan to teach? Who cares about the school--without students there would be no school or teachers. In my opinion smaller is better.

With smaller class sizes the benefits seem to far outweight the costs. Yes we may have to hire more teachers and pay them less, but the students will win in the end. With more face time and accountability students will be more likely to succeed behaviorally and academically.

This discussion is absurd. I have taught in K-12 schools and now in a university, and the statistical evidence is clear, has been clear, and makes utter sense: the number of students an instructor has in a class is inversely proportionate to how many of those students will get attentive instruction and feedback. Of course, if all teachers are expected to do is administer tests, then that doesn't matter at all, does it?

Smaller or larger than what? At what grade level? For what instructional approach? Etc. 20 is usually noticeably better than 30. But 19 is not noticeably better than 23 (our district moved from the latter to former without measurable effect on learning outcomes, but significant increase in cost, but many keep pushing for even smaller). Smaller than 15 is usually better than 20. But how much better is 25 than 30?

The most telling remark in this piece is the following:"Most teachers teach 20 children exactly the same way they would teach 30; there is no real change in most teachers’ approach to how they teach, despite fluctuations in class size."

How many children can get attention in a class of 30; how many essays can be corrected, how many questions can be answered, how can a teacher adequately respond to the different learning styles and abilities of a class with 30 students? Obviously Cooperman has no understanding of what it's like to teach and the significant challenges involved.

Moreover, the arguments in this piece are baseless. Indeed, facts are stubborn, but quite contrary to what Cooperman alleges. Study after study, including the best randomized experiment in the history of education, have shown that smaller class size raises student achievement and narrows the achievement gap, as well as a host of other benefits, including increased parental involvement, lower rates of disciplinary referrals, reduced teacher attrition, and high graduation rates. Yet no controlled study has ever linked higher teacher salaries to better teacher quality or improved student performance.

Though raising teacher salaries would be a good thing and highly deserved, most teachers do not go into the profession to make money but to make a difference. When teachers themselves are asked what would be the best way to improve their effectiveness, smaller classes comes out as the number one priority.

No wonder: it is impossible in many cases for teachers to reach all their students, with feedback and help, no matter how talented they are, given the huge class sizes in most urban schools and many states throughout the country. If we care about the opportunity to succeed of our students, especially our most disadvantaged students, and the opportunity of their teachers to succeed as well, we will reduce class size.

Maybe Saul Cooperman needs to be sentenced to a class of 32 fourth graders for a couple of years and see if he still thinks it is cost effective, let alone academically prudent.

We were fortunate that our son was accepted at a private school. They guaranteed a maximum class size of 16 (and in his three years there, rarely did a class approach that size)and, of course, the result was a high tuition. As a Freshman, his public high school classes were far larger and we felt he wasn't receiving the level of instruction that would adequately prepare him for college, but it wasn't for lack of teacher effort. At the private school, to cite but one example, we were impressed with the degree to which his english teacher was able to "mark up" his writing assignments; something his 9th grade public school teacher could never have had enough time to do with a class of 25 or more. And if small classes aren't educationally sound, why do private college prep schools insist on maintaining them? Given their selective admissions policies resulting in a population of highly motivated students, they could easily take Mr. Cooperman's advice and increase their class sizes thus increasing not only their operating funds, but teacher salaries as well. I'd wager because their experience with small classes has proven their worth beyond any doubt.

After examining the bulk of literature on class size I have found the issue to be one more of conjecture, rather than one of the empirical. The first problem is with the varying degree of teacher ability. Secondary to teacher variation is with the wide differences in students. Further, most class size reduction statewide mandates have not produced the desired results in terms of increased G.E. The most compelling evidence I have found on class size comes from teacher surveys. Overwhelming, teachers who were asked about their preferred size of student grouping in primary grades said between for and five students. Likewise, the same teachers argued that the ideal class should have no fewer than four groups and no more than six. So, it seems, at the center most primary teachers prefer classes of about twenty-five students.

Cost-effective-wise, obviously bigger is better. But student-achievement-wise, class size is an inverse correlate of class management ability of the teacher. The latter is a constraint that we cannot overlook, nor the fact that school culture related to student behavior in class is an issue with many teachers regardless of their class management abilities.

You have got to be kidding. I presently have 2 children in private schools (both special needs) because their classroom sizes were too big. At the end of second grade one coud not read and the other just could not keep up. Both kids have a hard time focusing and need lessons taught a slower pace. Their new schools have 6/12 students.

Without question, there is a limit at which class size does become a serious issue, so it cannot be treated as irrelevant. I did not feel a significant difference in my own learning experience when my high school honors classes were at numbers between 19-25 students, and I enjoyed most of these. But my social studies/geography class of 39 students was overwhelming for all of us, including our teacher. You could tell by the look on his face every day. It was the same look my mother used to have at home grading papers at night dealing with her similarly oversized classes at another school. Some mandated class size reduction plans are probably a bit much, but I don't think the spirit of them is incorrect. And this is even more critical if the students have any special needs. Perhaps someone will eventually figure out a way to equalize matters in this debate in a way that addresses children's needs first instead of how much teaching them costs.

Cooperman's work is reminiscent of Richard Vedder's 2003 report that teachers earn more per hour than architects, engineers, statisticians, scientists, reporters and the like. Vedder's conclusions were severely limited because he didn't take into account the additional time teachers spend preparing lessons, calling parents, and building communities. Cooperman's logic is just as limited. Where are the economists who will take into account the realities of teaching and learning?

Saul Coopperman's ignorance is exceeded only by his bad judgment!!! ANY school that has science lab based classes exceeding 24/class is violating professional standards, therefore if any type of accident should occur the school has NO defense against a negligence suit. This has been undestood from every school safety seminar I've attended either at national conferences or as separate workshops.
Also virtually every state now has science content standards which demand inquiry either as a standard, an instructional technique or both. This type of instruction is critical for good science education (and a highly effective instructional tool for other disciplines as well). This highly effective instruction (with an unquestionable research base) becomes nearly unmanageable in larger class sizes (not to mention the increased safety issues. His assertion that this is cost effective may be accurate if all we care about is a third world "walmart" type of education, not true learning. If you use the "traditional" (which is NO LONGER the norm in science instruction)lecture and worksheet approach, then 20 vs 50 bodies (they're no longer students) in class are nearly equal for the level of education attained (80% poor. Sounds as though Mr. Cooperman has been estranged from modern educational research as well as real contact with good education.

The class-size debate is not new. Some years ago there was fairly positive evidence that smaller is better. (I'm not up on recent research.) However, the discussion often overlooks the need for different class sizes for different aged students and for different subjects. If a teacher is only going to lecture, it doesn't make much difference whether it is to 25 students or 75. But let us hope that most teaching involves interaction between teacher and students. In that case, smaller classes provide an advantage.
Another often overlooked factor is the importance of well-designed homework. With that class of 75, the teacher is almost obliged to provide less homework or homework that can be checked very easily.

If the purpose of increasing class size is to bring in more qualified teachers,I guess I just don't get it. Are you saying, a more qualified teacher will be able to provide a higher level of education to more children? Will that teacher also be able to grade papers or increase student achievement better than a teacher with fewer students in their class?

Look, less is more and smaller is better. When you increase class size you also increase the negative group dynamics that go along with it. Do we need that in our ever growing schools of diversity? For example, more clicks, more opportunities for children to be ostracized, picked on, alienated, dare I say fall through the cracks?

When children become invisible, or think they are, trouble starts. With the emergence of larger classes are we ready to support the issues confronting teachers who must deal with class prep concerns?

Oh people, when will we learn, that good education comes from starting with a good product...be it a well qualified, well trained teacher, a properly prepared student,committed parents and administrators, and politicians who really care about an educational process that works.

Do we really want to educate the masses? Do we really want people to be able to think for themselves?....to problem solve....to read and write and be able to challenge those who create the very chaos that exist today........? Do we really want that???????????????? Now, tell me again what value do we actually place on education?

Cooperman's comments are absurd. Well designed research has consistently found positive effects for small class-size. Only research designed or reported by anti-public education organizations have indicated otherwise. It's time for educators to look more closely at research reports so we are not fooled by organized lies.

Researchers need to step into a classroom with 30 students to truly understand the magnitude of this preposterous statement. Teahcers are under extreme pressure to provide ample time for each student during each short class period. How do you explain to students that they only get 1.2 minutes of your time each day?

I have been an elementary classroom teacher for 42 years, with class sizes from 6 to 37. There is not enough time in the day, or night, to do justice to the needs of a larger class. Most of the comments seemed to come from high school teachers, but we have the same types of problems in grade schools. Let the theorists stand in our shoes, and then speak.

I teach in a small rural school. I am lucky to have small groups I have a max. of 19 students in my room due to a 20 person capacity according to the fire marshal (I am #20). If there are more then 19 students I have to divide the classes into more smaller groups. I teach K-12 art. In this assignment I teach 5 sections of art and one section of elementary reading each day. This sounds out of this world to many of you so logged down with such large groups. In addition to the variety in ages (5 to 19) that I work with each day. To keep my students involved and active, I do not teach the same thing at the same time every year. Due to my area (Art) I teach the same skills, but in a different way and through different artists and time periods each year, so I am constantly researching for information and projects. I do not just do studio work, we work through disciplined based education in my class, so we read, write edit, use math concepts, study history as well as produce art. We do this K-12. I do not know how teachers stay sane with those numbers of students along with all of the requirements from district, state and nationally being put on teachers today. We spend so much time proving that we are teaching, with all of the additional governmental requirements that we are loosing time needed to work on what all our students need with the variety of ability levels in each group. Planning period is not a time I get to correct or do the usually assumed duties done during this time. It is usually spent prepping or cleaning up from my morning classes and laying out for my afternoon classes or doing other things to make our school function.

We take an early out one day a week just to work on what the state,district and nation are requiring. This is not work time to keep up with our student's work and to plan inventive, innovating ways to get our students to learn the material required let alone meeting the needs of the the upper and lower end students. Nor is it a time that we can bring kids in for extra help. It is to be used for school improvement.

I am not unusual in my next statements for what is expected during a teacher’s week beyond the actual class prep. and class size. I have additional duties which are needed to make a small school function. I personally have Yearbook, Freshman Class to add to my day. I used to have hall patrol during games, but had to give that up, because it ate up too much of my off time. Now my off time as many of you know is spent doing school stuff. I grade papers, do research, gather needed items for my class (usually out of my own pocket). I am not a score keeper, a timer, a ref. a pta or pto leader, academic group sponsor, a coach or thank heavens in charge of the concession stand this year. Other teachers are assigned to those. I do however have to be at all the activities to make sure we have a broad base for our year book so I am not in my room or at home doing things that need to be done for school or personal needs.

Then there are the community activities that the teachers are expected to help or keep running such as 4-H, Fair committees,Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, High School Rodeo or Sunday School teacher, just to name a few.

I often wonder when or if the people such as Mr. Cooperman, state officials, national officials, at times college professors or any of the other people telling how the educational system should work, have been in a classroom recently if ever. There is a lot of theory going on with little practical knowledge and experience added to the pot before comments are made as to how to make things work.

I spend from about 6:30 am to 7pm on a early day. It is many times 10 pm before I leave school. Then I spend at least 1/2 a day on the weekends at school in addition to the work I can do at home, just to say behind. I usually can not see the tail of caught up, so I can not imagine how people with huge groups of kids stay sane and caught up with everything we are required to do. Many including myself have no aids or classroom helper to keep up with the required grading and paperwork. Extra money for more students? I have enough. Even with these smaller numbers I do not get to every student to help them every time they want my time and attention, because I am usually helping someone. How much more can we do? Like someone said above, come spend some time in the trenches, before you tell us we can handle more and that numbers do not make a difference in a childs education. I bet Mr. Cooperman has a secretary or someone who helps him function as to many of the higher ups telling us if we plan better we can do more.

The only reasons I am still here after 21 years, is my love of teaching (not grading and all the paper work) and my students.

Herding animals has always been less expensive than teaching them. Herders however make less money than trainers (teachers)because the outcome expectations are easier to meet when you have all the heads pointed in the same direction even when the rear is miles behind the front.

Has anybody, besides Michael Bloomberg considered what it would take to to get all of the kids in one grade on the same page. This Retired Commissioner is close enough to New York City to get at least one valid answer.

To Lee/Texas
I agree that the relationship you describe is true. I have, however, had difficulty in finding studies that give the clear statistical evidence for middle school/high school. If you have references, I would love to know what those are.

After 24 years of teaching, I can hardly believe that there are still assertions out there like this one. I have read tons of evidence that says smaller class sizes offer many advantages. This evidence has been gathered repeatedly over many decades. As a music teacher, I have handled classes of every size imaginable. I am a very results oriented teacher. I find such logic, (larger size = better results), audacious. It simply has no credibility based on my 24 years of sincere effort. Lets remember that the real goal is the mental/emotional development of children. I suppose if our goal was to train mindless robots for non-thinking jobs, such an "efficient" approach may have merit. However, in the light of effective development of young people, (and their minds), I find such logic to be an assult. It reminds me of a book written back around 1980 called, "the soft revolution." It instructed social extremists how to use schools in particular as tools of deception and leverage. The pretense was the enhancement of education, but in reality the goal was the subverting of the very foundations of our culture.

[email protected]

I teach middle school in California. I would LOVE to have my class size LOWERED to Mr. Cooperman's "larger" size of 30. You don't even have to increase my salary, just pay me the prevailing babysitter rate of $2 per hour per child. I would be most happy with that $3000 per month raise!

Aside from the scholarly research supporting or warning against cramming larger numbers of learners into classes, the most important consideration for the laboratory science teacher is SAFETY. If I thought, for a second, that a lab was filled past the number that I could, safely, supervise, during an activity, involving student manipulation of science materials and equipment, I would not have allowed the activiity to begin. I suppose that the same concern exists for physical education, shop, home economics, or certain art activities.
Even though the students were convinced that I had "eyes in the back of my head", I did not. I am proud of my excellent safety record as a teacher of laboratory science, during my career in teaching middle school and high school science and training other teachers of science. Just as the physicians' oath starts out with: "First, do no harm.", so, similarly, should the science teacher's first concern be the safety of all students.
If all we did was to lecture or hold discussions, numbers of students could be increased to make even the oldest taxpayers glow with memories of 40 or 50 desks in a room, as it was in schools of their youth. However, just the thought of 40 or 50 7th graders handling power supplies, sharp tools, and chemicals in a room with one teacher should be enough to quell enthusiasm for huge classes and smaller teacher payrolls.
Just once in a while, during the heated discussions that attend the various calls for change in today's schools, we need to use common sense.

I know nothing more about Cooperman, than that he is/was another overpaid education Mogul in NJ, the state of overpaid everythings.

His non-rocket scientist idea doesn't even make any sense. As it is, any classroom with more than ten (10) students in it should have a second teacher in the room. In this day and age, with all of the threats and accusations that occur, there should alwys be two or more.

Yes, they should be paid WELL, even if there are two or more. The government has money - it gets a kickback on every monetary action in our society (how about Capital Gains Tax?), regardless.

They have the money, that Mr. Cooperman evidently wants to save. Why is that? Our children are an investment, so whay not go hog-wild on their education. Get rid of superfluous administrators, ESL, and other wasteful programs that are taking away the parents'

Spend money on the children, and pay their teachers well - a chicken in every pot; a car in every garage; and two teachers in every classroom.

Cooperman is absolutely correct.

Moreover, the results of the most ambitious 4-year study of class size, "Project STAR", finished in Tennessee in 1990, were totally misrepresented. This is a largely unreported sloppiness or scandal in the way educational research results were published.

For your information, smaller classes paid off marginally in grades K and 1 only. In and after grade 2, the comparative student-gain results in reading and math actually REVERSED!! They were not cost-effective in any grade. And that is with carefully randomized teacher quaqlity. In real life, when class sizes are increased by 33%, the demand for teachers and classrooms increase by 50% (NOT 33%. Check your basic arithmetic.) There is no way that teacher quality would stay constant under these conditions.

In fact, current teachers need to know that the cost of a 33% drop in class size would permit a close to 50% increase in their salaries and benefits (and that is without any allowances for the cost of 50% more classrooms!)

Teachers and the public have been badly deceived.

Finally, we should give up on the following crazy and totally impractical notion: Classes should be small enough so that every teacher can or should get to know how every single student learns -- so that the teacher can "reach" that student. How would that work after the student graduates? The schools would have to tell the employer how his new employee has been catered to and "specialized", so that the employer can keep the game going?

Instead all of us should teach the class in accordance with the "KISS" principle (KEEP IT SIMPLE, STUPID!)

John Shacter; consultant and teacher; [email protected]

A friend of mine went attended a Catholic school in Philadelphia in the 1930's. She said there were over one hundred students in her classroom! (The archbishop or bishop at that time wanted to make sure that all Catholic children had access to a Catholic education.)
"HOW did the nun do it?" I asked.
"Well, there were students who came down from the upper grades and went up and down the aisles to make sure we were doing our work."
"But HOW DID YOU LEARN TO READ?" Her answer was: "Our parents taught us, of course!"
The moral of this story is: we can all go back to the old days and have our parents teach us.

I am saddened (by the lack of seriousness to real topics of need) and gratified to see such inane comments such as "class size doesn't matter".This tells me once again that many people in the college level are out of touch with reality and the needs of children, teachers, and education in general. Of course class size does not matter if you are not teaching (or never have) in the classroom but are focusing on the budget.
Class size is a major factor in the success of every teacher in every classroom. It is not the only factor but in no way relates to the quality of teachers. That like comparing oranges to watermelons=no relationship.

Every classroom deserves the best qualified, most caring and intelligent teacher to be found. With a reasonable class size, he/she is better able to assess, diagnose, and prescribe the materials and methods to improve success. This doesn't factor in the relationship piece which is also vital to improving the education and lives of many of our students.For some students the teacher's relationship and encouragement may be the only lifeline that he/she can grasp on to.

Make a simple comparison: Would you want your mother or father operated on/cared for by a medical doctor that has 30 patients he sees a day or 15-18? Would even the most dedicated professional be more likely to make mistakes, committ errors, not recognize symptoms?

If you were placing your father or mother in an assisted living facility: Would you rather have him/her in one with 100 patients supervised by a crew of three, or in one with fifty patients surpervised by a crew of three?

These are not frivilous comparisons. But rather ones that consider that the relationships, and the ability to have them revolve around the premise that the amount of time that a person is able to spend with each person enables them to better care for that person.

Should we ask or expect any less for the children of America that we profess to love more than anything, including money?

I am sorry to say but I believe such attitudes are contributing to a massive exodus of teachers from the field of education. Teachers who are dedicated, skilled, knowledgeable and wise,but who are no longer valued as the most dedicated of public servants. They love, protect, and educate our kids when most people only want to get the kids out of their hair. Witness the relief when school breaks are over.

I have not yet read many of the responses in this section, but I can say without a doubt that class size is a determinant factor in student achievement and the overall quality of education provided. Those that believe the contrary are either theorists, researchers, administrators, or whatever, but without solid experience in the oversized classroom. Having experience in both the 1:20 ratio and the 1:35+ ratio classrooms provide a comparative assessment of what class size means to education that cannot be substituted by study, no matter the extent or quality.

Research states that teachers, in order to provide a quality learning experience, should have a student load of 80 students at a maximum. This is to provide what many educational theorists and educators consider a basic element to positive student achievement; that each student has a "meaningful relationship with at least one adult." The question remains as to why districts continue to swell teacher loads to 200+ in the face of such conclusive evidence. It must concern budgets and economic issues.

The result of such a massification of education and learning at both the class, as well as school level, has left education, and I suppose you could say learning, imbedded within an institutional setting. That is unfortunate. Unfortunate because institutional settings do not promote or even facilitate learning, but hinder it. Learning does not lend itself to institutional environments. Learning is what many educators have said it is: a personal journey of reflection, dialogue, and application. Try doing that in an institutional setting as either a teacher or student.

The previous entry from teacher Greg Stein solidifies what I have thought for the nearly 39 years I have worked in education. What is this thought???
There is no "teaching"....only "learning." The interaction between a teacher and a student is way more about the student's desire or need to learn. If smaller classes facilitate this interaction to a higher degree, then smaller classes should be the norm.

I have also had class sizes of l3 - 32 and I am here to tell you, l3 is much more manageable than 32. I would like to ask this gentleman one question. Would you work today for less than minimum wage because that is what you are asking teachers to do when you expect them to teach such large classes? In one day, I work from 7:40 - 4:00 at the building. I arrive at home around 7:00 and work until ll:30 or l2:00. That is approximately 13 hours a day. I am being paid somewhere around $25.00 an hour according to my pay stub but actually I am making less than $2 an hour. Far l ess than poverty level. I could make more on welfare. I don't know many people who would work for that amount of money unless they are dedicated and care more about the child than the money. Your remarks are insulting and shows once again that people in your position earn the "bigger" bucks but know far less than you are supposed to about what really takes place in the educational system today.

In my earlier comment, I stated that I make approximately $2 an hour. That is after taxes, union dues, insurance, etc. all come out. My mind got ahead of my hands. Sorry.

In my earlier comment, I stated that I make approximately $2 an hour. That should say $10 and then taxes, union dues, insurance, etc. all come out. My mind got ahead of my hands. Sorry.

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  • Bob Balwinski, State Dept of Ed Consultant: The previous entry from teacher Greg Stein solidifies what I read more
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