Reducing the number of students per class improves academic success, according to a recent note from the Institute of Public Policy. For Julien Grenet, co-author of the study, this decrease also has a longer-term positive impact on wages
The impact of class size on student performance has already been the subject of a considerable number of reports and articles. Why publish a note again ?
There are indeed a significant number of studies on this subject. But the latter do not have the same methodological qualities. Following a great clutter on these studies, which often lead to puzzled conclusions, we decided to clarify the situation. Our paper presents the results of a dozen of the most robust research methodologies published in the best scientific journals in an attempt to draw the most reliable and concrete lessons about the impact of class reduction on student achievement and on their fate in the longer term.
The reduction of class size improves academic success: this is the conclusion of your note. In concrete terms, how does this decrease have positive effects on students?
In this note, it is mentioned that “these positive effects are observed in the elementary school even though the teachers are not specifically accompanied pedagogically”. The estimated effects of class size in elementary school are positive: of the nine studies reported on student achievement, seven find statistically significant results. Indeed, the doubling of a class of 24 students (a decrease of 12 students per class) makes it possible to advance a median pupil of two or three ranks in the class at the end of the year, which is far from ‘being negligible since this represents half of the difference in level between children of managers and workers in CP. In addition, some studies have attempted to measure the effects of class size for different subpopulations of students. For example, a study has effects twice as high as those presented above when it considers children of socially disadvantaged background. It suggests that the reduction in class sizes in priority education schools could contribute to a significant reduction in performance differentials by social origin. Similarly, a second study found higher effects for poorer students and for black students, while a third study found effects twice as high for children from lone-parent families. Finally, for some studies, the results are clear: the reduction in class size allows more time and attention for each student. It is also more interactions with the master and fewer problems of discipline.
In the current debate, it is often said that the reduction of class size is only effective if teachers are accompanied in their pedagogical practices through training. It is quite possible that the effects are stronger if we accompany teachers but this is not a sine qua non. Among the studies identified, none of the contexts studied mentioned any specific support for teachers. Yet, we see significant gains in student performance. The idea of compulsorily accompanying teachers through training is not at all established by research. This is not a prerequisite for student success.
What are the long-term effects?
Based on follow-up data from the US STAR program, some studies such as Krueger and Whitmore show that students who were allocated to small classes in primary school more often passed college entrance exams and have obtained higher marks than their peers assigned to the larger classes. The study by Fredriksson(2013), arguably the most spectacular, succeeded in following the integration of a certain number of pupils into the labor market. It shows that in Sweden, pupils who have benefited from split classes in PSE and CE1 achieve not only a higher level of education, but also higher employment rates and higher incomes in adulthood ( about 5%). Thus, according to several scientific researches, the size of the classes in the elementary school influences the educational trajectories and the insertion in the long term. On the other hand, in the college, the effects on the long term are more uncertain. In Denmark,
The issue of class size is currently being debated. What do you say to people who do not share your opinion?
Show me the studies that prove the contrary! We have relied on studies published in the best scientific journals and none of them show that the decline in classes adversely affects student performance. It is true that few studies find no effects but none show negative results. If they exist, I would be very interested to consult them. A lot of information is said in this debate but is not based on any scientific basis and is not documented. This position ignores the numerous studies of great qualities that have been carried out since …