Print this Page

Resources

Chiefs’ Pocket Guide to Class Size: A Research Synthesis to Inform State Class Size Policies

Author(s)Council of Chief State School Officers
Publication dateMarch 2012
publication pdfClass Size Research Synthesis
Keywordsclass size

Few questions in public education discourse benefit as much from research-based evidence as the question of class size - the pursuit of the ideal number of students that should be co-located for any particular period of instruction. But for policymakers, much of the research appears to conflict - literature reviews often find that the number of studies boasting significant returns on investment offered by class size reduction (CSR) equals the number citing its ineffectiveness. Still more reports suggest no significant effects at all.  

In this Chief's Pocket Guide, we draw from the major studies and literature reviews of CSR to find that, when viewed in isolation - a practice not recommended - dramatic reductions in class size are associated with desirable outcomes, including higher levels of student learning, and the typically modest effects are more pronounced in the early grades and for low-income minority students. When viewed from a whole-systems perspective, however, CSR efforts require a comprehensive consideration of resources, and therefore may not be the most cost-effective approach to improving student learning.

This Chiefs' Pocket Guide will examine

  • A brief history of high-profile CSR efforts
  • A synthesis of research on the effects of CSR efforts
  • Policy considerations for state education chiefs who may be implementing, considering, or reconsidering CSR as part of their reform agenda
  • Arguments for designing systems that move beyond the "class size" construct

Contact:Jennifer Poonjennifer.poon@ccsso.org202-336-7051