Friday, November 4, 2011

SMALLER CLASSROOM SIZE BENEFITS ALL, ESPECIALLY LOW-INCOME BLACK STUDENTS, Inc.A mother wrote to me, concerned about her elementary child being in a classroom of 21 students. She looked on the Fremont City School's Website (Ohio) and discovered that her son's elemenatary school had a higher student/teacher ratio than the other elementary schools. She read a newspaper article that stated class size has no effect on student achievement and wondered if it were true.

I disagree with the research she was referring to. Smaller numbers of children in a classroom benefit them more than if they spent 9 months in a more crowded classroom. However, this mother's child is not in an overcrowded classroom, for a class size of 21 is not considered to be so.

Common sense tells us that a child’s competent teacher could spend more minutes per day with each student, individually, with a smaller classroom size. With an aide, the individual attention increases even more. Yes, I’m in favor of fewer children and more aides in our classrooms. Excuse me whilst I duck! Unfortunately, many schools across the U.S. are cutting back on aides to save money.

Today’s elementary school classrooms are chock-full of kids, but cramped for sufficient space and ample time. I've always said that space and time are luxuries items once a school building has too many children attending it! School officials try to make due with the dwindling assets they have at their disposal. I wish I could wave a magic wand and restore to life President Kennedy’s dictate that we place Americans on the moon or resurrect President Eisenhower’s command to construct a colossal interstate highway system. I wish for resolute leaders to sway, not be molded by, irresolute polls so that every K-6th grade classroom in America becomes the most tantalizing and enlightening place for kids to come to. Full Online Preschool - KindergartenHowever, parents should be most concerned about class sizes in K -3rd grades. Research, not polls, could justify a national mission of lowering classroom size in these critical grades. A 14-year study tracked 11,600 children from kindergarten through third grade, and eventually documented their performance in high school. Children who began school with 13-17 classmates outperformed those from larger classrooms (22-25). Even when classroom size increased to higher levels in fourth grade, the students who spent grades K-3 in the smaller classrooms were already 6-14 months ahead in math, reading and science and were more likely to complete advanced academic classes as, take college admissions tests, and graduate as well! And 72 percent of the students from the smaller kindergarten through 3rd grade classrooms, compared to 66 percent, graduated on time and completed more advanced math and English courses in high school.

Interestingly, research shows small class size in low-income schools in Wisconsin that African American kids who attended predominantly African American schools get a bigger boost from small class size than did white kids. In Tennessee, on average, black students in small classes ended third grade with academic achievement that was 7 to 10 percentage points higher than black students who attended the large classes. White students in small classes were only 3 to 5 percentage points ahead of white students from those larger classes.

I believe people value children as much as paved interstate highways and moon shots, but Ohio will accumulate a $7.3 billion deficit in several years. Eventually, we’ll provide all children with uncrowded classrooms, but not someday soon. I wish I had a magic wand.

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Robert Morton, M.Ed., Ed.S. has retired from his positions of School Psychologist and adjunct professor in the School of Leadership & Policy Studies at Bowling Green State Univeristy. A portion of Ad sale revenue from this site is donated to Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America. Questions? Comment? Concerns about family, parenting, educational or personal concerns? Contact him on the secure Bpath Mail Form.