The Benefits of Smaller Classes
St. Anne School prides itself on our small class sizes and low teacher-to-student ratios. Below you will find the documented academic benefits of smaller class size outlined. Parents may be concerned that small class sizes lead to less social interaction for students, and this is not the case at St. Anne School. Our students interact on a daily basis with multiple grade levels both academically and socially to help ensure a well-rounded student experience. Our school is an extension of your family and our older students are very protective and supportive of our younger students. As listed below, research also shows that smaller class sizes actually lead to stronger, life-long friendships caused be increased interactions with small groups throughout the day.
What Is Class Size?
In research on early elementary school students, small classes usually mean fewer than 20 students.
Overall, research shows that students in smaller classes perform better in all subjects and on all assessments when compared to their peers in larger classes. In smaller classes students tend to be as much as one to two months ahead in content knowledge, and they score higher on standardized assessments. These positive effects of small class sizes are strongest for elementary school students, and they become more powerful and enduring the longer students are in smaller classes. That is, students who have smaller classes in early elementary grades continue to benefit from this experience even if they are in larger classes in upper elementary or middle school (Bruhwiler & Blatchford, 2011; Chingos, 2013). Class size also shapes the quality of writing instruction at all levels because smaller classes are essential for students to get sufficient feedback on multiple drafts (Blatchford et al., 2002).
Academic performance is important, but it is not the only measure of student success. In the area of student engagement, findings consistently show the value of small classes. Students talk and participate more in smaller classes. They are much more likely to interact with the teacher rather than listen passively during class. Not surprisingly, students describe themselves as having better relationships with their teachers in smaller classes and evaluate both these classes and their teachers more positively than do their peers in larger classes. Students display less disruptive behavior in small classes, and teachers spend less time on discipline, leaving more time for instruction. Specifically, teachers in smaller classes can diagnose and track student learning and differentiate instruction in response to student needs. In smaller classes students spend less time off-task or disengaged from the work of the class, and they have greater access to technology. Research also suggests that smaller class sizes can help students develop greater ability to adapt to intellectual and educational challenges (Bedard & Kuhn, 2006; Dee & West, 2011; Fleming, Toutant, & Raptis, 2002).
The benefits of smaller classes extend beyond test scores and student engagement. In addition to the longer-term positive attributes of small class sizes in the early grades, benefits include continued academic and life success. Researchers have found that reducing class size can influence socioeconomic factors including earning potential, improved citizenship, and decreased crime and welfare dependence. The beneficial effects of being assigned to a small class also include an increased probability of attending college. This benefit is greatest for underrepresented and disadvantaged populations. While the increased probability for all students is 2.7%, it is 5.4% for African American students and 7.3% for students in the poorest third of US schools (Dynarsky, Hyman, & Schanzenbach, 2013; Krueger, 2003).
Teacher quality has, for some time, been recognized as the most important variable in the academic success of students. Recruiting and retaining effective teachers has become increasingly important as school districts impose mandates about student test scores and overall academic performance. Class size has an effect on the ability to retain effective teachers because those with large classes are more likely to seek other positions. Research indicates, however, that instead of rewarding effective teachers by decreasing their class size, administrators often increase the class sizes of the most effective teachers in order to ensure better student test scores (Barrett & Toma, 2013; Darling-Hammond, 2000; Guarino, Santibañez, & Daley, 2006).