Last month, the U.S. Department of Education released a report, "Local Success Stories: Reducing Class Size." The 9-page report describes challenges and opportunities in efforts to reduce class size. Included: The latest research on class size reduction.
Last month, President Clinton announced the release of a Department of Education report, Local Success Stories: Reducing Class Size. The 9-page report describes challenges and opportunities in efforts to reduce class size, including recruiting qualified teachers; improving early reading achievement; strengthening accountability and turning around low-performing schools; and addressing space limitations.
"The report shows that in just one year, schools across America have actually hired over 29,000 new, highly-trained teachers, thanks to our class size reduction initiative," said Clinton at the release of the report. "It also shows that in the early grades in those schools, class size has been reduced by an average of five students per class. Over 1.7 million students are now directly benefiting from this class size initiative."
"It shows we are headed in the right direction, and that's the good news," Clinton added, tempering his enthusiasm by reminding the audience that "only a fraction of America's students have been reached. I am committed to providing more teachers and better teachers for all our schools. I want to make sure every young student in America receives the benefits of more individual attention and a more disciplined learning environment in a smaller class size setting."
In making the announcement of the new report, Secretary of Education Richard Riley said the report makes clear that funds from the Class Size Reduction Program passed last year "are already being put to good use and making a real difference in helping students learn." He emphasized the flexibility in this program, noting that it lets schools support their own local objectives and priorities. He pointed to
"Class size reduction is something that is so clearly beneficial to the ability of our students to learn and our teachers to teach that I am bewildered by any effort to stand in its way," Riley remarked. "The benefits of smaller class size -- for both students and teachers -- are abundantly clear. Research has shown that class size reduction in the early grades with a qualified teacher leads to higher student achievement in reading and math. And the benefits are greatest for disadvantaged and minority students. What is more, as recent analyses reveal, the payback that comes from participating in small classes increases from year to year."
These funds are already being put to good use. Based on preliminary data from nearly 46 percent of the nation's school districts, the Department of Education estimates that:
Smaller classes lead to lasting academic improvements. Several new analyses of the Tennessee Class Size Reduction program show that reducing class size has both immediate and long-term benefits. The benefits of participating in small classes increase from year to year, both in the early grades when classes are small and in subsequent years when students are placed in larger classes. At the end of fifth grade, students who were in small classes in grades one through three were about half a school year (5 months) ahead of students from larger classes, in all subjects -- reading, language arts, math, and science. Further, follow-up studies of the same students show that high school students who were in small classes in grades one through three beginning in 1985 were less likely to be held back a year or be suspended compared with their peers from larger classes. Students from small classes were found to be making better grades in high school and taking more advanced courses.
Teachers benefit too. Research on Wisconsin's class size reduction effort (SAGE) show that both teachers and students benefit from smaller classes. Teachers spend more time on instruction and less time on discipline problems. Teachers say they know their students better, know where each child is in the learning process, and can provide more individualized instruction. All of these improvements in teaching are matched by increased student achievement, making teaching more rewarding.
Beyond academics. The benefits of reduced class size in the early grades go beyond the well-documented improvements in reading, mathematics, and science. Smaller classes also lead to better identification of students who need special help, increased student participation and engagement, improved behavior, and reduced retention in grade. In a recent book, Professor Charles Achilles concluded that the outcomes associated with small classes are the foundation of safe schools: improved student behavior and human relations skills; increased participation in schooling and school-sanctioned events; increased sense of community in small classes; and generally improved school climate where students, teachers and parents feel more comfortable.
Article by Gary Hopkins
(From reports issued by the U.S. Department of Education)
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