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07. Smaller Class Size Means Higher Level of Achievement

The Georgia Association of Educators (GAE) continues to support class size reductions in all grades.
GAE understands that manageable pupil/teacher ratios improve student performance, decrease student discipline problems, and give teachers needed time to individualize instruction.
Class size legislation must continue to include limits on the number of students permitted in each class because administrators use system wide averages for cosmetic not instructional purposes.

GAE supports limiting the number of students assigned to any teacher as follows:


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15:1 – K-3


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18:1 – 4-5


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20:1 – 6-8


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25:1 – 9-12



Maximum class size reductions, scheduled to be completed in compliance with the 2000 Georgia Education Reform Act, were delayed for at least one year.
The results of this legislative action are that most classrooms in Georgia have realized an increase of students and thousands of Georgia’s classroom teaching positions have been eliminated.
GAE supports completing the class size reduction initiated in 2000 and funded since 1997.

As a result of the legislative action, the State Board of Education has adopted a policy allowing school systems to add up to two students per class above the required maximum number of students.
The addition is far above the funding limits.
For example, a school system receives funding to employ one kindergarten teacher for every 15 students; it is permitted to assign 22 students to a teacher with a paraprofessional (Kindergarten classes were scheduled to be limited to 18 students, three above the funding level).
However, the school system may now assign 22 students to a teacher. Thus the school system received funding for 4.4 kindergarten teachers for 66 students; however the board of education only hires three teachers.

Problems with higher class sizes increase in advanced grades.
Many middle school teachers will have 32 students per class, an increase of two students above the ‘02-03 limit of 30.
School systems receive funding to employ one middle school academic teacher for 20 students.
Therefore, school systems receive funding to employ one middle grade teacher for 120 students in a six-period day.
However, the teacher will have 160 students.
Middle school teachers do not have a duty-free lunch period, and their planning time was reduced from 85 to 55 minutes.

A high school English teacher will be forced to instruct 160 students during a five-period day.
The school system receives funding for one teacher with 138 students (23 x 6 class periods).
In order to provide a planning period, the school system could divide the 138 students into five classes of 28 students.
Teachers will have 32 students in each class under the revised state law. The English teacher will have 160 theme papers to grade instead of 138.

Lower class sizes have a proven impact on improving student achievement.
A 1992 National Assessment of Education Progress Mathematics Test revealed that fourth graders in smaller than average class sizes were performing at a level of about four months ahead of other fourth grade students in the same school district.

Tennessee
The Tennessee legislature became convinced that by reducing class sizes, student achievement would improve. In 1985 the Tennessee legislature funded a statewide class size experiment, the Student/Teacher Achievement Ratio (STAR) study that followed a group of students from kindergarten through the third grade. The state appropriated funds over four years to hire the additional teachers and teaching assistants necessary to reduce class size in selected schools. Within each of the 79 participating schools, the State Department of Education randomly assigned teachers and students to small (13-17 students), regular (22-25 students), and regular with a full-time assistant (22-25 students) classes. The evidence from student testing in STAR showed that the students in the smaller classes outperformed the students in the larger classes. This was true for both non-minority and minority students in smaller classes and students in smaller classes from inner city, urban, suburban, and rural schools.
Wisconsin
During the 1996-97 school year, Wisconsin implemented the Student Achievement Guarantee in Education Program (SAGE). The program’s objective was to phase in class size reductions in kindergarten through third grade in low-income school districts over a three-year period. The goal was to reduce class sizes in appropriate grade levels to a student/teacher ratio of 15:1 or less in those primary grades. Academic learning was measured at the beginning and end of the first-grade year and again at the second-grade year for both SAGE and comparison school students. SAGE students’ scores were compared to those students in matching comparison schools serving similar populations of students with the following results:


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SAGE first-grade students performed consistently better than comparison students in mathematics, reading, language arts, and total scores for the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills.


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The achievement gap lessened between white and African-American students in smaller classes in the first grade, in contrast to a widening of the gap between white and African-American students in classes with more students in comparison schools.


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Second grade SAGE students’ academic achievement remained higher than those of the comparison school second graders.

A consensus of research indicates that class size reduction in the early grades leads to higher student achievement, and the significant effects of class size reduction on student achievement appear when class size is reduced to a point between 15 and 20 students.
In order to achieve the objective to improve student performance, attract and maintain quality teachers, and decrease discipline problems and school violence, GAE strongly supports completion of the 2000 class size limitations during the 2004-05 school term.
It is time to hold school boards accountable for the funds received to employ teachers.

The GAE realizes that space and classrooms are at a premium because of Georgia’s fast growth rate--particularly in the metro-Atlanta area--and that school systems might have to request a waiver from the Georgia Board of Education. GAE recommends that when waivers are granted that they be limited to two years without renewal opportunities; the local board must submit a plan to decrease the class size with the waiver; and classroom teachers receive a salary increase of 1/15th for each student exceeding the class size limitation. A similar penalty was implemented in West Virginia in the early 1980s and provided the needed incentive for school boards to get serious about reducing class size.

Several states, including California, West Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Wisconsin, have implemented class size reduction programs with amazing results.



Ø
SAGE first-grade students performed consistently better than comparison students in mathematics, reading, language arts, and total scores for the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills.


Ø
The achievement gap lessened between white and African-American students in smaller classes in the first grade, in contrast to a widening of the gap between white and African-American students in classes with more students in comparison schools.


Ø
Second grade SAGE students’ academic achievement remained higher than those of the comparison school second graders.

A consensus of research indicates that class size reduction in the early grades leads to higher student achievement, and the significant effects of class size reduction on student achievement appear when class size is reduced to a point between 15 and 20 students.
In order to achieve the objective to improve student performance, attract and maintain quality teachers, and decrease discipline problems and school violence, GAE strongly supports completion of the 2000 class size limitations during the 2004-05 school term.
It is time to hold school boards accountable for the funds received to employ teachers.

The GAE realizes that space and classrooms are at a premium because of Georgia’s fast growth rate--particularly in the metro-Atlanta area--and that school systems might have to request a waiver from the Georgia Board of Education. GAE recommends that when waivers are granted that they be limited to two years without renewal opportunities; the local board must submit a plan to decrease the class size with the waiver; and classroom teachers receive a salary increase of 1/15th for each student exceeding the class size limitation. A similar penalty was implemented in West Virginia in the early 1980s and provided the needed incentive for school boards to get serious about reducing class size.

Several states, including California, West Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Wisconsin, have implemented class size reduction programs with amazing results.