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Class size: Counting students can count
Research shows that smaller classes can improve student performance


October 31, 2003
Friday - 1:00 am

Washington, D.C. - As leaders in local school districts and state legislatures across the country grapple with class sizes for students, research has shown that small classes can deliver lasting benefits, especially for minority and low-income students. Such findings are described in the latest issue of Research Points, published by the American Educational Research Association.

In "Class Size: Counting Students Can Count," Research Points presents what is known about class size. Most education research has confirmed that small classes yield benefits. However, while there is strong evidence of academic improvement during the first two years spent in a small class, there is more ambiguity about the value of additional years.

For minority students, small classes can shrink the achievement gap and lead to reduced grade retention, fewer disciplinary actions, less dropping out, and more college-entrance test taking.

Examining the cost of small classes, Research Points reports that shifting resources away from ineffective educational interventions, such as extra teachers in a school who do not have regular class assignments, can minimize the net expenditure.

According to research outlined in Research Points, small classes--for maximum effect--should meet these five conditions:

  • Early intervention is important. Start in kindergarten or first grade.
  • The number of students in a class should range from 13 to 17.
  • If resources are scarce, target implementation by focusing on at-risk students.
  • Maintain intensity by ensuring that students experience small classes every day, all day.
  • Small classes should last at least two years for initial benefits, and three to four years for longest-lasting benefits after the small classes are over.


To read Class Size: Counting Students Can Count, visit



Source of News Release:

American Educational Research Association
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