Jarod Apperson is a CPA, forensic accountant and currently working on a Ph.D. in economics, consistently writes well documented pieces on a variety of education issues and publishes them at his blog – Grading Atlanta.
In advance of the Atlanta Public School Board of Education reconsidering the maximum class size waiver in a special meeting (see more here and here), Apperson sent the following email to Superintendent Meria Carstarphen and copied all Board of Education members. As usual, Jarod is thorough and presents his fact based conclusions in a clear and well documented fashion.
As noted in a prior post, the Board of Education reversed its prior decision and approved the +5 class waiver (see here).
Apperson’s assessment was published in full at the AJC’s Get Schooled blog. Here are some key excerpts:
From my understanding of the class-size research and knowledge of the Atlanta schools, I have become persuaded that a substantial reduction in class size would be the easiest action you could take to improve student learning.
Below, I present a series of relevant questions and attempt to provide informative answers.
Are smaller class sizes an effective means to raise student achievement? – Yes…Credible research design is essential to developing good causal estimates, and both randomized experiments and quasi-experimental research indicates that class size reductions positively impact student achievement.
Evidence from the Tennessee STAR experiment shows that students assigned to classes with a maximum of 17 students scored 0.15 to 0.20 standard deviations above students assigned to classes with a maximum of 25 students. Thus, the experiment’s results suggest by reducing its maximum class size by 8 students, APS could close between 60% and 80% of its achievement gap with the state…Importantly, both studies indicate that the positive effects are even larger for disadvantaged students, a significant fact in a district were approximately 80% of students qualify for free and reduced lunch….
Unfortunately, the debate on class size was muddied by a number of ill-designed studies in the 1980’s and 1990’s that purported to show no effect, but in fact did not employ empirical designs that would allow the researchers to isolate the effect of class size on student achievement.
So, yes, reducing class size is an effective means to raise student achievement.
Are smaller class sizes easier to implement than other initiatives? Yes. For reasons that are not always clear to me, class-size discussions in the district often meander into a territory where class size is pitted against effective teachers…First, it is a false choice. Reductions in class size need not come at the expense hiring effective teachers. Second, reducing class size is easy while placing an effective teacher in every classroom is easier said than done…
APS can and should raise the bar for teacher selection, but results will undoubtedly be incremental. Class size reductions are an effective policy that can be implemented immediately, and there is no credible reason they should come at the expense of prioritizing effective teaching hires.
[Conclusion] If APS allocates additional teachers to all its schools, including Title 1 schools, that frees up supplemental resources. It returns those resources for use in targeted interventions aimed at the students most in need.
Please read the whole thing here.