At least over a dozen states have already adopted policies that reduce class sizes.
Unfortunately, class size as described and measured in most cited literature does not readily translate into student-faculty ratios. Class size is defined as the number of students assigned to a teacher for a specific period of group instruction. In contrast, the student-faculty ratio is a measure that aggregates the entire student body of an educational entity (school, program, grade, or enrollment cohort) and expresses it as a ratio to the entire faculty involved in their teaching.(Brian and George,2003) Average class size is a measure that aggregates the number of students in the number of classes to which they are assigned and divides it by the number of classes. As a summary statistic, average class size is closer to the root meaning of class size than the student-faculty ratio.
The speed and enthusiasm with which America implemented class size reduction underscored a shared optimism on the part of legislators, educators, and parents that fourth grades would quickly improve the quality of education and lead the state's fourth grade students to achieve higher scores on standardized tests. To a great extent, this optimism has been rewarded: evaluations after the second and third years of class size reduction in America confirm that students taking part in fourth grades do perform a lot better on standardized tests than similarly placed students in larger classes. Educators hope these gains will increase as the program matures and students have longer exposure to fourth grades.
My research on class size reduction would study its full effects - positive and negative - which may not be realized practically for several more years. However, as class size reduction programs gain momentum across the nation, educators and legislators would be well advised to learn from America's experience and keep equity foremost in their minds when planning their own programs. This paper reviews the history and status of class size reduction in America, reports results from comprehensive evaluations of the study for fourth graders, and derives a short set of studies from the experiment. These studies are intended to help inform the debate about class size in other states and in the nation as a whole.
The strong political support for class size reduction in America has been based on the belief that reducing class size would produce significant improvement in student achievement. This certainty, in turn, was based on the positive results of a class size reduction experiment on fourth grades throughout major American schools, the Student/Teacher Achievement Ratio, or STAR, program. Students who participated in reduced size classes in the STAR program during the primary grades made statistically significant achievement gains in all subject areas tested.( George and Brian,2003) The achievement gains were equal for boys and girls. Also important from the perspective of some American legislators, the achievement gai