Class Size and Educational Policy Making
Class size is often one of the most misunderstood aspects of public schooling. In fact, many people feel that their child will benefit the most from a small class, whereas their classmates who have large class sizes would benefit from a larger one. However, there are a variety of factors that go into a determining the size of a classroom and determining which factors are more important than others. Let’s take a look at some of the main factors in determining the size of a classroom:
Class Size as a Factor in Teacher Training and Education Policy When a school tries to make special accommodations for groups with different student sizes, such as by offering smaller classrooms or only using group seating in emergency situations, the policy usually stipulates that a minimum of 20 students is needed for optimal classroom conditions. Unfortunately, this does little to alleviate the problems created by artificially small classes, since many schools provide extra-curricular activities and class time for students who meet the minimum requirement without necessarily providing an equal amount of support. One common complaint regarding class sizes is that they leave children feeling isolated and without a sense of community, which can lead to low self-esteem and eventually low academic performance. For these reasons, it may be better to not attempt to change the existing policy but rather to teach students how to adapt to class size despite the policy, and not to mention the problems created by artificially small classes.
Class Size As a Factor in Teacher Pay Teachers are generally paid according to their students’ test scores, which is why there is so much emphasis on teacher “prestige” and the benefits of a “prestige” position. However, there is another important factor to consider: Would paying teachers more (or significantly less) if their class sizes were reduced? Some educators argue that paying teachers more (or significantly less) would solve the problem of underrepresented minority students, which was identified as a significant factor in the achievement gap between white and non-white students in the United States. Proponents of larger classrooms cite research that finds that students enrolled in large classes perform at least as well as those in smaller classes. Furthermore, it has been noted that the effects of class size on test scores are temporary and that students do not really lose any ground over the long term. Aspen said: “The long term effects of large classes on achievement are too short to be of any significance.”