Are Smaller Class Sizes Better?

JANUARY 12, 2006 -- It is a common assumption that smaller class sizes mean students learn more, because they receive more one-on-one attention. Local third grade teacher, Terry Willis, would agree.

"I had been in a larger class with 29 students, and it's just hard to spend any one-on-one time with a student, but here I have 21 and I get to go spend a little bit more time with everyone, and help them learn how to visualize their instructions with them," says Willis.

But a study of school districts outside our area found that smaller class sizes did not appear to help students already facing educational challenges. Terry Stoops works for the John Locke Foundation, which conducted the study.

"Schools that received money for class size reduction, and were successful in reducing their class sizes did not perform any better than schools that did not receive money for class size reductions, but had similar types of students. Students from low income backgrounds, and low performing backgrounds," says Stoops.

While Stoops says the study did not look at schools in our area, it could affect our schools, by how much money they receive and how they can use it. Stoops says 50% of the proceeds from the state lottery will go toward smaller classrooms for North Carolina schools. He says he would like to see that money go somewhere else.

"I think those monies would be much better spent given to school districts that have high growth for school construction and funding school bonds," says Stoops.

Stoops believes the decision to earmark lottery money for smaller classrooms is taking a gamble on a theory he says does not work across the board.

Reported by Kacey Gaumer