Reader Mailbag

An econ major writes about the post below: “The one point that you didn’t mention is that while Mr. Average (there will be no calling teachers by their first names here) is #50 (out of 100) with a class 30, he could very well be of equivalent quality as #20 with a class size of 15. “

Thank you, econ major. But we disagree.

The argument about class size reduction effect basically boils down to two….economists!
Stanford’s Eric Hanushek on class size takes the gigantic Tennessee STAR data set (the main evidence for those who support class size reduction) and actually refutes THAT – ie, ZERO gain, he says, from class size reduction.

Princeton’s Alan Krueger re-analyzes Hanushek, and makes an argument that in effect that Hanushek is wrong and the data says there IS a gain in student achievement, but it’s in the neighborhood of one TENTH of a standard deviation of gain.

[For uber-wonks, you can read about this debate in a 2002 collection from Economic Policy Institute. It’s the dork equivalent of Ali-Frazier.]

So the #50 teacher, as you know from your normal curve, would have to get almost a FULL standard deviation of improvement from class size reduction in order to hit #20. In the BEST case, if Krueger is right, the #50 teacher moves to….#47 out of 100 or so.

Don’t worry, readers! We realize this is wonkishness on steroids. The plan is to cut back immediately to just the Human Growth Hormone, i.e., to “pull a Giambi.” The real Eduwonk will be back in just a couple days….

Oh yes, that reminds me. He wants you to read Teachers Consider Merit Pay in my local paper. I know, I know – it’s like the vacationing teacher still assigning homework for the sub to give out. Totally unfair.

– Guest blogger GGW

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