Bigger isn’t always better – especially in discussions of class size. But it isn’t necessarily worse, either. The correlation between class size and student achievement has been the subject of longstanding subject of debate in academic circles.
The one consistent finding is that if class size matters, it matters more in the earlier years of a student’s education.“Small classes in the primary grades can help close the achievement gap,” according to Key Lessons: Class Size and Student Achievement, posted on Education.com, “A class size of 15-18 is the upper limit for capturing benefits in the early grades,” according to this research.
But times are tough for many school districts around the country. In response to budget shortfalls, many are being forced to reduce staffing. Teacher layoffs, in turn, are leading to larger class sizes in many school districts.
But just how big those classes can get is limited by law in many states.
An article entitled Setting Class-Size Limits, published on Education Week’s website, says “A majority of states have at least one policy that limits the number of students that may be in a general education classroom, according to the Education Commission of the States, and several have relaxed those class-size policies since 2008.”
Education Week goes one step further, providing an interactive map of the U.S. , depicting which states have a class-size requirement, which do not, as well as which state have tried (with success or not) to relax those requirements.
A class size of 20 students appears to be about average for primary schools in all regions.
In Montana, for example, classes are limited to 20 students through 2nd grade, but can be as high as 30 students in 9th through 12th grades.
New Mexico also stipulates that kindergarten classes may not exceed 20 students without the addition of an instructional aide if that number is any higher.
In Texas, school districts may not enroll more than 22 students in kindergarten through 4th grade classes, though state law will allow for that limit to be appealed in cases where schools are facing extreme hardship.
Illinois, Colorado, California, and Washington are among the 14 states without a class-size requirement. In California, however, the state provides funding to schools that are able to limit class size to 20 students in the younger grades. The move to cut funding to schools unable to reduce class size has been extended to 2014.
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