Small Class Size Matters Most For Students

Teacher Voices survey finds Colorado students benefit most from small class size; shows why funding increase and Amendment 73 are needed

Colorado educators identified “class sizes that allow for one-on-one attention” as the most critical need for their students. The result comes from the National Education Association’s My School, My Voice, a survey of educators assessing their students’ needs.

“If we’re serious about creating schools our students deserve, we must have class sizes that enable teachers to connect one-on-one with each student,” said Amie Baca-Oehlert, president of the Colorado Education Association.“We have a tremendous opportunity before us with Amendment 73 to increase funding for public education and address issues such as class size. CEA is developing legislative priorities to build off last spring, when we saw record numbers of educators come to the Capitol and advocate for their students. Educators will not be silent in this session.”

In Colorado, 742 educators took the online survey by considering 32 areas of concern for student success and placing checkmarks next to those areas where their school needed to improve. Teachers identified 13 student needs per school, on average, that are not being met in a state that underfunds students and educators by several hundred million dollars each year. The survey respondents represented more than 400 schools in more than 80 districts. Their input is the basis of a new CEA report, Teacher Voices: Teachers Know what their Schools and Students Need (download at http://bit.ly/CEASchoolNeedsSurvey).

The smaller class size item was selected by 74% of the participating educators, including Denver teacher Suzette Montera-Smith, who has taught 36 kindergarteners in one class. “It is more like crowd control rather than differentiated instruction when there are more than 18 five-year-olds in a classroom. With larger class sizes, it is very difficult to meet my students’ needs.”

Another respondent, Cherry Creek teacher Cathy Keller, has had up to 36 students in a World History class. She called reducing class size “the single most important thing we could do to improve educational outcomes, and it’s the thing constantly ignored.”

The CEA report aligns with major education studies which show that decreasing class size raises student achievement and graduation rates while decreasing discipline issues. The report also debunks corporate-backed education research that falsely claims class size reductions have no effect on student outcomes. “Anyone who says that class size doesn’t matter does not understand teaching,” said Mesa County teacher Christy Anderson, who has had 32 kindergarteners in her largest class.