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What Is The Ideal Class Size? And What Would It Mean For Education?

By March 6, 2009

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Last week, we discussed, "What One Change Would You Make In Today's Schools?" Here is a summary of the most common responses:
  • smaller class size
  • better administrators
  • more caring teachers
  • increased parental support
  • less emphasis on assessment
  • more money for supplies and computers
Was anything major overlooked? Reduced class size seems to be a very hot topic right now. So it made me wonder... what is the ideal class size? And what could you accomplish if you taught a class of that size?

California limits K-3 classes to no more than twenty students. Would it need to go even smaller in order to make strides in primary education?


March 9, 2009 at 8:13 pm
(1) Elizabeth Blake says:

I taught science to at-risk students in an inner-city high school. The office put 74 students in one of my classes once! It was ridiculous.
I believe, if I’m not mistaken, that NSTA suggests no more than 25 high school students in a science class. You shouldn’t have too many in a science lab for safety reasons. I couldn’t do science labs with 74 students. But administration didn’t seem to care.

March 10, 2009 at 1:20 pm
(2) Michelle says:

I have very small class sizes (fewer than 18 students per class)this year in 7th grade English and it’s like a dream. I can have meaningful discussions where all students participate, I can conference in a class period with most of my students, and I feel like I am a more effective educator.
We are laying off staff for next year, though, and it will definitely affect class sizes. I think we’ll be back in the 25 – 28 student range. Administrators don’t like small class sizes because they don’t think it’s fiscally responsible.

March 10, 2009 at 7:22 pm
(3) Cindy says:

I currently teach 2 classes of 28 5th grade students, some of whom are much larger than the average 10 year old! It wouldn’t be quite so bad if our administrators backed us up with discipline issues. I teach language arts, and our district mandates a “balanced literacy” program in which I’m required to have 4 different types of reading instruction, plus meet with guided reading groups of no more than 6 students per instructional reading level. At 28-30 kids per class, that’s 4-5 groups just for the guided reading part…and I’m not self-contained! This mandate is the real reason I’m considering changing districts at the very least, and possibly leaving teaching altogether.

March 11, 2009 at 7:39 am
(4) Josh says:

Due to budget cuts, our school district is currently doing away with our Pre-K program and our K-3 class size reduction program, as well as other optional programs. Across the school, we have classes with at least 24 in each classroom. The real trouble is that they built the classrooms to fit 20 students. The result is that we trip over desks and chairs and each other. If just moving around the classroom is difficult, imagine what teaching or learning is like! The third grade inclusion class with several students with disabilities and behavior issues has 25! Time to move to California I guess!

March 11, 2009 at 8:56 am
(5) Li Osterhout says:

As a future teacher, I worry about class sizes in schools. I was in a class that had 50 students. I felt like I had no personal time with the each student. I tought a class as part of my college work that had 45 students. How can our youth get a good education with such high numbers in our classes? My 5th grade class had 54 students to one teacher and we moved schools in the middle of the year because of over enrollment. There are some states like California that are laying off teachers even though their enrollment is up!

March 12, 2009 at 11:55 am
(6) Kellie says:

I taught for two years in multi age 2nd and 3rd grades classes with between 20 and 25. When the enrollment went up to 25 my class was chaotic I spent all my time disciplining and redirecting students and not teaching. I am now blessed with a single grade (1st) with only 14 students. I feel more successful as a teacher. With budget cuts coming they are talking about doubling up again. OH NO!!!

March 12, 2009 at 12:09 pm
(7) George says:

It is unfortunate that we have NCLB, and therefore must leave some kids behind as the class size increases. The more individual attention given to getting testing results higher, the less individual learning and education we are able to give to students. The larger classes will no doubt cause lower test scores. What are the eventual costs of a poorer education?

March 12, 2009 at 4:05 pm
(8) Sky says:

It’s not the size of the class, but the class make up–in other words the population that makes up the class–that determines whether or not you can teach those particular students. Large numbers of students with chronic discipline issues make for a chaotic classroom no matter the size. Although, a bigger class size does present problems in movement and space available is often a problem as well. Too many students with varied needs also presents a problem. It’s just not physically possible to give one-on-one and individual attention when there are too many students with those needs in the same classroom.

March 19, 2009 at 1:31 pm
(9) Shannon says:

I agree with Sky that it is not just class size that has to be considered. The make up of the class is very important, too. Research has shown that smaller class sizes are most beneficial for minority and low income students which tend to be where more discipline issues occur. As with most things it becomes a question of money and who has it and who doesn’t. I understand that administrators need to be “fiscally” responsible, but what about being responsible for providing the best education possible?

March 2, 2010 at 8:45 pm
(10) rico says:

am just dreaming one day i can have a class size of your size i’ve been teaching for 10 years and the least number in my class is 60 now i have 100 enrolled, sadly 20 kids dropped from school since the opening of class june of last year,now i got 80 in my class we’re closing this march but the number is still that big

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