Does smaller class sizes increase student test scores?'s Teacher Poll of the Week
Does smaller class sizes increase student test scores?

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An overwhelming majority of teachers feel that class size effects student achievement and that smaller classes will increase student test scores. On the face of it this makes sense. Smaller class sizes means a better teacher to student ratio, allowing teachers to spend more one on one time with students identifying areas that require additional work.

Not every study reports the same findings. Some studies have shown that family background and community, including socio-economic factors, have more of an effect on student achievement than school resources or student-teacher ratios. Many believe that these facts are true however, they point to the fact that schools in more affluent areas often have more resources and smaller class sizes which affects the interpretation of data tremendously.

Other studies conclude that smaller classes affect the way classroom instruction is delivered and therefore also affect student test scores. Teachers may teach differently when there are fewer students in the classroom. There could be more assessment, more classroom discussion and more help for individual students thus leading to a rise in achievement. Even if teaching habits do not alter in smaller classrooms, students may be better able to focus with fewer classmates as distractions. Small group work would be more easily accomplished and students would spend less time unsupervised. All these factors should lead to increased student test scores.

The other thing to consider is that larger class sizes are a response to funding issues. If there are budgetary restraints being placed on school districts then it is likely that school resources are affected as well. This double whammy of larger classes and fewer resources combine to affect student achievement more profoundly than either factor alone.

No matter which study you read or choose to believe, there is support for every theory. The bottom line is that larger class sizes put an unnecessary strain on teachers and students. If it didn't make a difference then all this debate and study would never have taken place. This poll is just one indication of teacher's beliefs but it is mirrored in many other studies. If socio-economic factors were the only thing affecting student achievement then it is even more important that those students be given every opportunity to achieve Increased individual time with their teacher would go a long way in helping them succeed.