NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Study Shows Effects Of Smaller Class Size

April 30, 1999

Students in smaller classes will do better through high school, according to a decade-long Tennessee study. Students in classes ranging from 13 to 17 students have higher grades, better graduation rates and are more likely to attend college. Project STAR studied 11,000 students after the 1985-86 school year.

The study's results prompted Clinton administration officials and Senate Democrats to call for completion of a Clinton plan for more teachers. The plan would:

  • Take six years to implement.
  • Cost $11 billion dollars.
  • Reduce the nationwide teacher-student ratio to 1-to-18.

Critics, however, say the problems can't simply be boiled down to numbers. Among the objections:

  • Reducing class size is irrelevant if teacher quality isn't improved.
  • Efforts to reduce class size can hurt teacher quality.
  • In California, a plan to lower the ratio caused schools to seek waivers on teacher requirements, leading to what one observer called "more adults in the classroom, but not necessarily more qualified teachers in the classroom."

Source: Anjetta McQueen (Associated Press), "Researchers find long-term benefits in smaller class sizes," Dallas Morning News, April 30, 1999.


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