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Class Size and Composition

See also Bill 33 – Education (Learning Enhancement) Statutes Amendment Act, 2006.

What's in the research?

Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach of Northwestern University undertook a review of the literature and found that class size does indeed matter. Based on the research as a whole, Schanzenbach makes the following policy recommendations in her 2014 report:

  • "Class size is an important determinant of student outcomes, and one that can be directly determined by policy. All else being equal, increasing class sizes will harm student outcomes.
  • The evidence suggests that increasing class sizes will harm not only children's test scores in the short run, but also their long-run human capital formation. Money saved today by increasing class sizes will result in more substantial social and educational costs in the future.
  • The payoff from class-size reduction is greater for low-income and minority children, while any increases in class size will likely be most harmful to these populations.
  • Policymakers should carefully weigh the efficacy of class-size policy against other potential uses of funds. While lower class size has a demonstrable cost, it may prove the more cost-effective policy overall." (10)

Dr. Charles Achilles, an American educator and expert on class size held a forum with teachers and parents at Strathcona Community school in Vancouver on February 22, 2002. Joining Dr. Achilles is Carol Johns, President of the Primary Teachers' Association. View the webcast speeches from the forum.

Gordon Thomas, the Executive Secretary of The Alberta Teachers’ Association, provides a useful overview of class size research in this 2011 article: A sizable issue: reducing class size matters, from ATA News.

A February 2012 CTF article also delves into the topic: Class size and student diversity: Two sides of the same coin.

The Federation's Information Services' Department has created a class size research profile.

The Teacher newsmagazine regularly features articles on the class size issue and the benefits of small class sizes: