Deficits Yield Class-Size Growth

Lean economic times mean bloated class sizes. From Natomas Unified School District in Sacramento, Calif., to Yonkers School District in New York, schools have had to make painful cuts to staffing and programming.

Most parents and teachers support reduced class sizes, but research downplays the benefits of class size reduction, except in the early grades, and with at-risk students. Critics of class-size reforms say most class-size reductions are marginal and that teacher effectiveness is a far greater lever for change. But can or will cash-strapped districts counter class-size growth with significant investments in teacher effectiveness? What support systems are in place to help teachers adjust to a bigger workload?

In Japan, despite the fragile economy, the education ministry recently announced plans to add 20,000 teachers as part of an effort to cut class sizes from 40 students per class to 30–35.