During a visit to a West Philadelphia charter school last week Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said class size wasn’t significant in student achievement.
Steven Morris, a music teacher at the Universal Bluford Charter School that Romney was visiting, disputed the former Massachusetts governor’s assertion on class size.
“I can’t think of any teacher in the whole time I’ve been teaching, over 10 years — 13 years — who would say that more students would benefit them. And I can’t think of a parent that would say ‘I would like my kids to be in a room with a lot of kids,” Morris said. “So I’m kind of wondering where this research comes from.”
Romney cited a study by the McKinsey consulting firm, which he said examined education systems in foreign countries and concluded that class size wasn’t a significant issue.
That study said teachers and parents’ involvement matter the most, which is different than saying class size does not matter.
Other studies including one by the University of Tennessee in the 1980s found small class size crucial to student success, especially in the early grades.
The study showed that smaller class sizes produced improvement in early learning, especially for Blacks and Latino students.
The Tennessee study showed smaller classes significantly outscored the larger classes on achievement tests.
Princeton economist Alan Krueger and other researchers have conducted more recent studies that they say confirm the validity of the Tennessee findings.
Most of the arguments against reducing class size are about costs and not whether smaller class size is significant to student success.
The debate about class size is timely and relevant.
Millions of public schools are seeing their class sizes sharply increase because of budget cuts and teacher layoffs.
A recent survey of more than half of Pennsylvania’s school districts shows more expect their finances to worsen next year resulting in many class sizes growing and course offering in core subjects shrinking.
The increase in class sizes and decreases in school budgets is a negative trend and harmful to the future of public education and the nation.