Student- Teacher relationships will improve
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From the very first day of school on, student- teacher relationships will be improved in smaller classes. Patricia Handley has been an elementary school teacher for twenty-eight years. She has had the opportunity to teach in both small and large classes. On the first day of teaching her first small class Handley comments, “I immediately noted their sense of importance; no one seemed lost in the crowd” (2002). In a small class, as the students enter, the teacher can take the time to greet each one. The teacher will learn the names of the children faster. The quicker the student is called by his or her name and the more individual attention they get from the teacher, the more comfortable they are going to feel expressing themselves to the teacher in a learning environment. “ In a class of fifteen students, we can quickly learn about one another and do so in more depth” (Handley, 2002). Each child is an individual. Once a teacher has the chance to get to know the students, they can work to accommodate the strengths and weaknesses in the learning process.
Students will have a more worthwhile learning experience
Many schools throughout the nation have tried smaller classes. Members of a teaching team in Narcoossee Community School in St. Cloud, Florida have commented that when students come back from summer vacation, they are enthusiastic to see everybody and begin the learning process, more so than before the program started (McGoogan, 2001).
Group discussions can be a major part of a school day. In small classes, everybody can have a chance to participate. When students are able to speak to a class in their elementary years, they will gain confidence. If they get used to contributing to class discussions, more than likely, they will hold onto that and use it as they progress through high school and college. When students are in a smaller setting, they will get to know one another better, as well as the teacher. When students are comfortable with the people around them, they will not feel shy or intimidated to raise their hands to answer a question. As students share their ideas and feelings with their peers, they will enhance their learning. They will be able to learn from what others say and they will become more interested on the topic of the discussion if they are involved in some way.
“Class size effects persisted for at least six years…small classes in early grades have lasting benefits” (Nye, 2001).
Studies on the Effects of Class Size
Studies have been conducted on the effects of class size. One major study, Project STAR, was conducted in schools in Tennessee. The study consisted of placing students into small classes, large classes, and large classes with teacher aids. After following the students through grade school and then following up later on in the students’ educational carriers, it was found that the students in the small classes excelled more than the others both in the elementary years and in high school (Bracey, 2000).
The teacher can focus better on each student
Another reason that the students’ learning experience will be enhanced is that the teacher in a small class can focus on the strengths and weaknesses of each child. “The individuality of each child should be realized and stressed in the learning process” (Tobias, 1996). Issues such as how to assess a child’s knowledge, how much time a child may need to spend on a topic, and whether the child learns better from auditory or visual stimuli can be focused on in a small class. Forth grade teacher Helen Robinson comments that in a large class, a teacher may not be able to “work with children who may be falling behind” (Pate-Bain, 2002). In a large class, it would be difficult to adhere to everyone’s learning styles. Schiming comments that students in smaller classes especially retain knowledge in “problem solving, written expression, and critical thinking” (2000). It is obvious that in smaller classes, more time can be spent on whatever topic is being covered, thereby bettering the learning process. Students can also concentrate better on learning more in smaller classes because they aren’t having as many distractions from other students acting up or threats of violence.
Need for disciplinary measures decreases
One obvious reason for the decline in disciplinary measures in smaller classes is that there are simply fewer children to monitor. “Teachers with small classes can spend more time and energy on creative teaching…they can provide more individualized attention” (Class size, 2002). As the teacher spends more time with each individual student, he or she will develop a more personal relationship with each one. When the teacher spends more time with the students, the students will see that the teacher respects and cares about them. If students are able to develop this type of respect-based relationship, they will be less inclined to get into trouble by talking or carrying on in some way. Also, in smaller classes, teachers will be able to take the time to properly explain activities. When some students don’t understand an activity or get bored quickly with it, this is usually the time when discipline problems occur. In small classes, teachers can take the time to help these students and keep their interests.
Going right along with fewer disciplinary problems, smaller classes are a safer environment. “Teachers who know their students well are better able to anticipate potentially violent or disruptive behavior and deal with it before it erupts” (Klonsky, 2002). Because teachers will more than likely know each student well, they will be able to tell when something is wrong. In larger schools, it is easy for a child to simply become a face in the crowd and go unnoticed when they are having problems. In smaller classes, this type of problem can be avoided.
Opponents to small class policies
There are a few different viewpoints about the class size reduction program. Some are for the program, no matter what the cost. Some don’t think the cost is that great, and others think that the cost of such a program is too great for the mixed results of it. Opponents to the program say it costs too much money, that there are not enough qualified teachers to fill the classrooms, and some even go as far as to say that the program is not effective, despite studies showing that it is. On the topic of class size reduction, Hirsch comments that “skepticism is warranted before spending large amounts of money” (1998). If so much money is going to be spent on the program, then there should be proof that it makes a difference (Johnson, 2002). Some argue that the voucher system was fine. A voucher system in education is “a plan in which each school age child receives a publicly funded entitlement worth a fixed amount of money which his or her parents can select a participating public or private school” (Flaxner, 1993).
There was a lot of controversy in California about the plan. When it was started, one billion dollars was set aside to help the program. Since most schools were reluctant at first to join the program, they were offered extra monetary help for doing so (Stecher, 2001). The results of the program in California have been mixed. The argument that there are not enough qualified teachers comes in a close second to the cost for opponents. “The teacher work force increased by 38% in just two years, causing a drop in teacher qualifications” (Stecher, 2001). There has been research conducted at the War-Wic Community College in Salisbury Maryland on the effects class size had on instructor evaluation. It has been found that it is a variable, however, not very important in that aspect (Lesser, 2000). Overall, opponents to the class size reduction program feel that the costs do not exceed the benefits. It depends on what people see as most important.
Class size in elementary schools should be as small as possible because student- teacher relationships will improve, students will have a more worthwhile learning experience, and the need for disciplinary measures will decrease. Yes, the cost of the program is high. However, as students grow up in our society as leaders with confidence, the cost will seem small. Each student should receive the attention and credit he or she needs in school, especially in the critical elementary years. Everyone has the right to feel safe in his or her environment, and students will have a better chance of this in smaller classes. No, class size reduction will not single handedly raise children to be great learners and thinkers. But, this program combined with the commitment of dedicated teachers and other educational advancements will improve the learning experience for children.
Tobias, Cynthia. (1996). Every child can succeed. Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House
I was not expecting to be able to find a book that would help me with my topic. This one is great because it is all about the importance of each child’s individual learning experience.
Flaxner, Stuart. (1993.) Random House Unabridged Dictionary. (2nd ed.). New York:
While I was doing research, I noticed that the voucher system came up a lot. I didn’t know what it was so I thought I would incorporate that into my paper.
Handley, P. (2002, February). Every classroom teacher’s dream. Educational Leadership, 33-35.
This magazine is full of great articles all about class size. This article in particular I liked, because the author clearly stated her opinions and backed them with details. She has taught both small and large classes.
Johnson, K.A. (2002, February). The downside to small class policies. Educational
This is from the same magazine. I chose to read this article, even though it is against my thesis because I wanted to see what kind of points I should work to focus my paper against. I will have to face the points of the other side of the argument as well as support my own opinion.
Peer Reviewed Scholarly Journal Article
Konstantopoulos, L.V. (2001). Are effects of small classes cumulative? Evidence from a
Tennessee experiment. The Journal of Educational Research. 94, 336-345.
Retrieved March 11, 2002 from Wilson Select Database.
This peer reviewed article is great because it has in depth descriptions of a study that was conducted in Tennessee for four years. The evidence from this case will be good to mention throughout my paper.
Bracey, Gerald. (2000). Research: small classes 1, vouchers 0. Phi Delta Kappan, 82,
331-32. Retrieved May 1, 2002 from ERIC database.
While researching, I found that a lot was written about the STAR project. This article was the most helpful in explaining the project.
Klonsky, Michael. (2001). How smaller schools prevent school violence. Educational
Leadership, 59, 65-69. Retrieved from Wilson Select Database on April 27, 2002.
This article wasn’t mainly focused on my topic, however it did mention a few helpful points about avoiding violent situations with the help of knowing the children your working with.
Lesser, Diane. (2000). Effect of class size, grades given, and academic field on student
opinion of instruction. Community College Journal of Research & Practice, 24,
269-278. Retrieved March 11, 2002 from Wilson Select Database.
This was an article that talked about a study on the effects of class size on the instructor evaluations.
McGoogan, Gail. The bar den: an elementary teaching team. Educational Leadership, 59,
76-79. Retrieved from Wilson Select database on April 30, 2002.
This article made mention of a school in Florida which had started the class size reduction program and was enjoying the benefits of it.
Nye, Barbara. (2001). The long term effects of small classes in early grades: lasting
benefits in mathematics achievement at grade 9. Journal of Experimental Education, 69, 245-258. Retrieved March 11, 2002 from Wilson Select Database.
I thought that this article would be a nice source to use in my study because it is about research that goes into detail about the long term effects of smaller classes in elementary schools.
Stecher, Brian. (2001). Class- size reduction in California. Phi Delta Kappan, 82, 670-675. Retrieved March 11, 2002 from Wilson Select Database.
I especially wanted to make use of this article in my paper because it mentioned the projects that took place in California.
Class size. (2002). National Education Association. This page was Retrieved from the
Google search engine on May 1, 2002.
This article focused on the importance of teachers to be able to be creative in their teaching.
Hirsch, E.D. (1998). Class size: a question of trade offs. About Core Knowledge.
This article was retrieved from the Google Search engine on May 1, 2002.
This article mostly talks about the importance of making sure that a program like this is worth its costs.
Pate-Bain, Helen. (2002). Answers to critics. Reduce Class Size Now. This page was
Retrieved from the Google search engine on May 1, 2002.
This article gives one teacher’s testimony about the importance of having smaller classes.
Schiming, Richard. (2000). Impact of class size on student performance. Class Size and
Teaching Effectiveness. Retrieved from the Google search engine on April 30, 2002.