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Class Size and Composition

In 2002 the provincial government passed legislation that removed all learning conditions, including all class size and class composition limits, from the collective agreements. In addition, the legislation removed all guarantees of services provided by specialist teachers such as librarians, counsellors, learning assistance and ESL teachers. All guaranteed supports for special needs students were also removed.

Currently, section 76.1 of the School Act restricts kindergarten classes to 22 students and primary classes to 24. For most grades 4-12 classes there is a guideline of a maximum of 30 students, but the guideline can be exceeded if the principal and superintendent agree that a larger number of students is acceptable. For classes such as music, drama, Planning 10, alternate programs, and leadership classes there are no guidelines and no maximums.

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)

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