January 30, 2012

Study: Class size doesn’t matter - The Washington Post

Well worth a read, although specifically focused on studies done in New York City. (Full 48-page report not readily available to the general public.) Thousands of studies have been done to show what's wrong with K-12 education and how to fix it. Will this one also wind up in the education reform dustbin?

Knowing what works and penetrating the status-quo inertia of the present system is a Herculean effort and usually goes nowhere except where real leadership and champions for change exist for the long term. Will these insights fare better within the education establishment?

"Two Harvard researchers looked at the factors that actually improve student achievement and those that don’t. In a new paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research, Will Dobbie and Roland Freyer analyzed 35 charter schools, which generally have greater flexibility in terms of school structure and strategy. They found that traditionally emphasized factors such as class size made little difference, compared with some new criteria:

We find that traditionally collected input measures — class size, per pupil expenditure, the fraction of teachers with no certification, and the fraction of teachers with an advanced degree — are not correlated with school effectiveness. In stark contrast, we show that an index of five policies suggested by over forty years of qualitative research — frequent teacher feedback, the use of data to guide instruction, high-dosage tutoring, increased instructional time, and high expectations — explains approximately 50 percent of the variation in school effectiveness..." [emphasis added dju]

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