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Classroom Size: Does it Matter?

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It’s hard to believe we are well into the second quarter! WCA students seem to have found their stride as we march on toward the holidays. Today I took a few minutes to walk through the halls of our school and listen to the buzz of activity coming from the classrooms. Pre-kindergarteners were practicing for the anticipated Thanksgiving program, third graders were discussing their first novel study, “Molly’s Pilgrim” and the upper school students were gathering for their weekly chapel service. My trip around the building was peaceful, calming even. As much as I love walking the halls of our school, my stroll today was purposeful.

Across the nation, including our small Williamsburg community, some parents are growing frustrated with the steady increase in classroom size. State and district level budget cuts are responsible for the increase, and it appears this will be a continuing trend. Concerned parents are addressing the lack of individualized attention their child is getting in the classroom and their fear that school is starting to resemble crowd control rather than an environment fostering successful learning. I asked myself, does classroom size really make a difference when it comes to student learning?  Walking through the halls of our small school it sure felt more conducive to a healthy learning environment, but does the feeling translate to research supported data?

In 2014 the National Education Policy Center published a research brief titled, Does Class Size Matter? Well, does it? Based off the research, it does! Professor Diane Whitmore Schanzenback claims, “Research supports the common-sense notion that children learn more and teachers are more effective in smaller classes.” That’s a pretty bold claim given some policy makers argument that class size doesn’t matter. Thankfully, the NECP, along with the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice, has solid research supporting their findings. I encourage you to check out the full brief here and see for yourself by clicking the link below.

https://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/does-class-size-matter

As a result of the research, these were the policy recommendations put forth:

  • Class size is an important determinant of student outcomes and one that can be directly influenced by policy. All else being equal, increasing class sizes will harm student outcomes.
  • The evidence suggests that increasing class size will harm not only children’s tests cores in the short run but also their long-term human capital formation. Money saved today by increasing class sizes will be offset by more substantial social and educational costs in the future.
  •  The payoff from class-size reduction is larger for low-income and minority children, while any increases in class size will likely be most harmful to these populations.
  •  Policymakers should carefully weigh the efficacy of class-size-reduction policy against other potential uses of funds. While lower class size has a demonstrable cost, it may prove the more cost-effective policy overall.

The results of this study were used for policy reform suggestions, but the outcomes are clear. Smaller class sizes do benefit our children and those benefits continue throughout their academic career. It seems parents do have research driven data to support their concerns.

Why does this matter to WCA families when our largest elementary class size is 12? It matters because it impacts our decision making in the future. It matters because it affirms our commitment to never sacrifice what is best for our students and their learning experience. It matters because next time I, or any parent, walk down the hall and listen to the rhythm of our learning environments we know it doesn’t just feel right, it IS right.

Cassie Bradshaw, WCA Admissions
Direct Line: 757-378-5263 / Email: bradshawc@williamsburgchristian.org

Cassie Bradshaw is the Admissions Director and Development Coordinator at Williamsburg Christian Academy. She graduated from WCA in 2002 and is thankful for the opportunity to serve on staff in support of the school. Cassie’s two sons, Connor and Samuel, are equally thankful to have mom in the same building (for now).

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