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Class Sizes Matter

Most adults who have a college degree have, at some point, sat in a lecture hall with more than 50 students for a class. My freshman year Chemistry class was in a lecture hall with about 60 other freshmen, three days per week at 8:00 AM. The women next door in my dorm were also in the class. We quickly discovered that if good notes were taken on behalf of all, just one of us needed to attend the lecture, and the others would simply copy the notes, allowing us to sleep in two of the three days the class met. I received all of the information I needed and learned my “real” Chemistry from doing the problem sets and participating in the weekly labs.

When we set out to search for college options for our oldest daughter, I strongly encouraged her to consider schools that were smaller and only undergraduate. She has graduated from Bowdoin College but really enjoyed ready access to her professors. She had relationships with them. They had meaningful discussions in class.

How much more is the size of a class important for our younger students whose brains are still forming? When we look at next schools for our students for middle school, we want for them the richest possible experience. We want them to grow to their fullest potential.

An article in the “The Washington Post” sites a review of numerous well-regarded studies on class size as it relates to student success (Strauss, Valerie; 2014, February 24, “Class size matters a lot, research shows.”) The results resoundingly point to the huge benefits of small classes. This summary of the reasons why class size matter states it well, “The mechanisms at work linking small classes to higher achievement include a mixture of higher levels of student engagement, increased time on task, and the opportunity small classes provide for high-quality teachers to better tailor their instruction to the students in the class.”

While these reasons may seem intuitive and obvious, there are still many educational institutions that are sacrificing the best possible outcome for our children in exchange for balancing the budget. I encourage all of our families considering next-step schools to seriously weigh class size into their decision-making process.

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