Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney in late May said smaller class sizes don't necessarily mean better student results in the classroom.
To Mr. Romney, I make this humble invitation: Visit my classroom for a few days and see what you think about the relationship between class size and student achievement.
I teach English and written composition to high school sophomores in a public school in Illinois. It's my job to help students acquire skills to better accomplish a variety of writing tasks. I won't speak for math, history or science teachers, but there's not a teacher in my department who would side with Romney. I am not terribly interested in what the "research" says, simply because I have done my own research over 21 years of teaching.
When I have smaller classes, it gives me more chances to make personal connections with each student. They, in turn, have more chances in class to ask and answer questions, and they get more of my attention. I can react faster to mistakes I see in my students' writing, and that helps me create writing instruction that is more individualized and designed specifically for those students. It's not an easy task, and I don't always succeed at it, but smaller classes make the goal much more attainable.
The National Council of Teachers of English, a professional organization for English teachers, agrees with me. NTCE feels English classes should be no larger than 20 students, and it has lots of reasons to back up that recommendation. In my teaching career, I have had a class of 33 students and a class of 12 students. It's not a huge mystery which class was more engaged and, in my opinion, allowed the students to achieve at a higher level.
Brad Boeker has degrees from the University of Illinois and the University of Missouri. He teaches high school English.