Interesting and well done WaPo article on budget pressures driving some school districts to slightly increase rather than decrease class size. Small classes are not a silver bullet and research pretty clearly indicates that it’s a much weaker — and more expensive — strategy than some others, like improving teacher effectiveness. That’s especially true where there are a dearth of qualified applicants for teaching jobs so reducing class size merely exacerbates quality problems. The research and evidence base here is pretty clear and it is what it is, so contra what a lot of the advocates it’s not something that you get to agree or disagree with any more than you can agree or disagree with gravity. The bottom line is that teacher quality matters more.
But, there can be good reasons to lower class sizes even around this evidence base. For instance, with enough qualified teachers it can improve instruction if teachers change how they teach in response. Or, it can provide a competitive edge in the labor market for schools. And, some strategies, for instance giving high school English teachers fewer students so they can teach more writing but increasing class sizes elsewhere to make it work, are the sort of creative redistribution of resources that we need to innovate with in this field (Ted Sizer basically proposed a version of this years ago in the Horace books).
The thing is, those are deliberate strategies around class size. Adjusting them, one way or the other, in response to budget cuts isn’t much of a proactive strategy. It seems to me that the class size advocates would get a lot further if rather than trying to argue with a pretty accepted evidence base or push for across the board class size reductions they instead put forward some ideas to enhance quality through reduced class size.