Class size is again in the media across the country, this time because of increases in class size related to fiscal cutbacks. Instead of discussing the achievement gains that would come from class size reduction, the current commentary has focused on the calamity for public schools that will necessarily follow from increases in class size. The discussions, while ever-tinged by politics, ignore the fact that increases are not symmetric to decreases.
The rhetoric of class size policy has been virtually constant for the decade-and-a-half before this year. If one carefully culls the research literature, it is possible to find a set of studies that conclude that achievement will improve with smaller classes. It did not take much of a sales pitch to convince parents, school officials, and legislators that everything should be done to bring class sizes down further, resulting in a steady decrease in class size. And with the help of federal stimulus funds, most districts managed to keep prior reductions, even as state fiscal conditions deteriorated. Handing out pink slips to teachers in the spring (and rescinding them later) was the perennial political maneuver to ensure that education takes small if any funding cuts.
(photo credit: velkr0)