Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Reducing Class Size: What do we know?

This was written by Penny Milton who is the Chief Executive Officer for the Canadian Education Association. This piece is the forward in The Canadian Education Association's report Reducing Class Size: What do we know?

by Penny Milton

Smaller class sizes are an intuitively good idea. Both parents and teachers believe that smaller groups of students allow for more individual attention and result in higher achievement. In addition, teachers believe that smaller class sizes provide for more manageable classes and better relations with parents. After many studies of the impact of class size, and lively debate about their interpretation, a consensus has emerged that class size makes a small but useful improvement to achievement in the early grades. The impact is greater when accompanied by pedagogical change. 

Because of its widespread popularity, reducing class size is a relatively straightforward policy initiative; its implementation, however, is complex because it affects utilization of classrooms, recruitment and allocation of teachers, and grouping of students, and may require the creation of split or combined grades in the primary and junior divisions.

In 2007 and 2008, the Canadian Education Association (CEA), through a contribution agreement with the Ontario Ministry of Education, conducted a study of Ontario’s newly introduced class size reduction policy to provide a portrait of the teaching and learning environment created in smaller classes and to determine the policy’s impacts, both intended and unintended. CEA contracted with a group of researchers from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto, to undertake this research on its behalf. The research team reviewed the literature, analyzed statistical data, conducted field research in eight Ontario school districts, and surveyed parents. The final report was approved by the Ontario Ministry of Education in 2009. 

The research will be of interest to school districts and departments/ministries of education in other jurisdictions. Although the study focused on Ontario, we believe that key stakeholder groups across the country will find it valuable. This report enhances our knowledge of policy implementation at the district and school levels, and provides insights into how to maximize the positive impact of class size reduction policies directed at elementary schools. 

We appreciate the participation of the Ontario school districts and parents that took part in the study, and trust that readers will find this report useful and informative.

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