Class Size – Part II – How Class Size Affects Student Learning

Studies have shown that class size really does matter when it comes to teaching and learning. This is particularly true when educating low-income and minority students who tend to have higher needs.  School districts continue to pack classrooms across the country, especially in urban districts, claiming budget cuts make larger class sizes necessary.

What is the impact of this? How do larger classes affect the teacher’s ability to teach and the students’ ability to learn?

When you look at the data, it proves that smaller class sizes lead to:

  • Better student engagement
  • More time spent on task
  • Greater performance on standardized tests
  • Student success through senior year
  • Higher graduation rates
  • Increased teacher retention

These are things we link to success but what matters most is why these results happen when teachers are given fewer students in class.

When teachers have smaller class sizes:

  1. They have greater proximity to all their students.
  2. They are better able to work with students one on one or in small groups.
  3. They have more time to differentiate activities based on individualized needs.
  4. They can provide accommodations for special education students more easily.
  5. They build better rapport with each student so classroom management techniques become more effective.

Teachers with larger classes don’t get the same benefit or luxury of time to spend with each student to ensure their educational success.  All students are entitled to, and deserve, an educational system that meets their needs.  While teachers are the first line of defense, the buck does not stop with them.  Larger class sizes are the result of local, state and federal budgets.  These are often impacted by the political climate.  Understanding the funding dilemma of our educational system was covered in earlier articles. 

Teachers with larger class sizes will not have proximity to their students which often results in lack of attention, disruptive behaviors, and bullying.

Teachers are too busy trying to manage a large classroom, so they are not able to effectively work with students individually or even in small groups.  They don’t get the opportunity to differentiate assignments to students based, on their individual ability, and they aren’t able to provide the appropriate accommodations for special education students so their inclusion in the classroom is solid.

Their overall classroom management suffers because they are not able to build the necessary rapport with their many students.

Larger classes are proven to make it more difficult for teachers to set and enforce behavioral expectations, monitor students, and pay individual attention to each student.  Larger class sizes lead to more disorder in the classroom which ultimately affects student learning. This, can lead to higher rates of failure, school violence, and dropouts when left unchecked.

School administrators who continue to pack teachers’ classrooms will suffer the consequences as their teachers choose to leave their districts in favor of other school districts that understand the benefits of smaller classes and enforce the value working with each student to help them succeed.