Does a smaller classroom really translate to a better education for public school students? In late May, Mitt Romney said fewer students aren't really the key, citing research that indicated some smaller classrooms performed worse.
"The schools in the district with the smallest classroom sizes had students performing in the bottom 10 percent. Just getting smaller classrooms didn't seem to be the key," Romney said.
But some teachers will tell you (perhaps not surprisingly) that their students, the parents and the schools do benefit from more one-on-one attention.
Yahoo! News asked teachers for their takes. Below are their views in their own words.
3 reasons Romney is wrong about class size: As a high school English teacher in a district just outside Lansing, Mich., I have years of experience teaching students in both small class sizes of 15 and large ones of 30. Without fail, students in the smaller classes always fare better than those in the larger ones, most often for these three reasons:
(1) Smaller class size means more personalized instruction. (2) Smaller class size means faster, more detailed feedback. (3) Smaller class size means better teacher-parent communication.
Romney's assertion could not be more wrong. As someone on the front lines, I guarantee smaller class size equals a better learning environment. I'd bet my pension most students would say the same. -- Laura Sauer, Michigan
Large classes can mean less than 60 seconds with each student: In my 8th and 9th grade English, AVID and yearbook classes in Davis, Calif., I've taught sections with 38 kids, and it makes a huge difference.
In a typical 52-minute period, I take the first three and the last three minutes for business. That leaves 46 minutes. With 10 minutes of direct instruction, that leaves less than one minute per child to check for understanding, make connections, and assess their learning. Add in trying to navigate the classroom with backpacks, instruments and projects, and that minute turns into seconds. Would you like me to spend less than 60 seconds with your kid? -- Jennifer Wolfe, California
Smaller school classes mean more personal connections: 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. -- Brad Boeker, Illinois
Chaos can reign in too-large school classrooms: As a secondary English teacher in Huntington, W.V., I have the arduous task of organizing peer-review sessions on paper drafts in classrooms that can have well more than 30 students. In addition to these sizeable group sessions, our multi-genre research papers, which can take months to research and put together, can become downright chaotic with so many students to oversee.
If you thought the Hatfields and McCoys could ignite a feud, you should see an all-inclusive classroom, one that accommodates all students, including special-needs students with behavior disorders, fighting over computers and overhead projectors to present projects. It's a sight to be seen. -- Ruqaiyya Noor, West Virginia
15 vs. 35 students: Romney wrong about class size: As a high school teacher in Midland, Texas, I think Romney is incorrect, and the answer can be found in simple common sense. Students, from elementary school through high school, are primarily social animals. They crave interaction with peers. The more peers, the more distraction from learning.
I've taught classes ranging in size from 15 to 35 students. The room with 15 students was, of course, the best behaved of the day. The worst behaved classes always have a packed house. With 20 teens or so, I can monitor all traditional troublemakers and head off problems before they get underway.
When you get more than 30 teens, it's considerably harder to teach and monitor the social scene at the same time. Each student is faced with more distractions, knows the teacher is also more distracted and busy, and therefore feels a greater urge to stop paying attention to the subject material and start paying attention to gossip and horseplay. -- Calvin Wolf, Texas
- Teaching & Learning