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Class size matters

Initiative 1351 will appear on the November ballot. It calls for the following class sizes (to be phased in over four years): grades K-3; 15 to 17 students; grades 4-6, 22 to 25; and high school, 23 to 29. The numbers vary based on the school’s poverty status.

I will not address the costs, but will summarize a 1985-1989 Tennessee STAR study funded by that state. Over 7,000 K-3 students were randomly assigned to one of three interventions: 13-17 students per teacher; 22-25 students per teacher; and 22-25 students per teacher, with a full-time teacher’s aide.

Students in the smallest class size consistently outperformed all other groups on The Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program. This test covered science, social studies, study skills and reading.

Distinguished Harvard statistician Frederick Mosteller wrote that STAR “was one of the greatest experiments in education in United States history.”

The students in the small classes were tracked through high school and were the top-performing students in Tennessee. The Evergreen State must first do a cost analysis before adopting small-class initiatives.

Donald Orlich



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