Center for American Progress

RELEASE: CAP Report: Class-Size Reduction Efforts Are Not a Cost-Effective Use of School Resources
Press Release

RELEASE: CAP Report: Class-Size Reduction Efforts Are Not a Cost-Effective Use of School Resources

Washington, D.C. — Today, the Center for American Progress released a new report that finds that class-size reduction efforts are not a cost-effective use of school resources. “The False Promise of Class-Size Reduction” by Matthew Chingos shows that class-size regulations constrain school administrators and often are ineffective at raising student achievement.

“When school finances are limited, the cost-benefit test is not ‘Does this policy have any positive effect?’, but rather, ‘Is this policy the most productive use of these educational dollars?’” author Matthew Chingos said. “Rigid across-the-board class-size reduction policies make it impossible for schools to pursue innovative and more cost-effective policies by tying up valuable educational resources.”

The Center also released a complementary report that discusses the limitations of the traditional one-teacher-one-classroom model. “Beyond Classroom Walls: Developing Innovative Work Roles for Teachers” by Julie Kowal and Dana Brinson examines alternative staffing models used by Rocketship Education, a charter school network, and Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia.

A number of findings emerged from the research:

  • Class-size reduction policies use up valuable resources and make it difficult for schools to target resources toward students who need them most.
  • Rocketship Education re-envisions teachers’ daily routines and their school roles through systems to offload rote tasks, tailored leadership development, and teacher subject specialization.
  • Fairfax County Schools created Teacher Leadership Development grants that paid teachers for additional leadership responsibilities in areas of greater need.
  • Implementing new staffing models could require changing class size, certification mandates, and other school practices.

The reports also included several recommendations, including:

  • Schools should be given flexibility when it comes to setting class sizes.
  • State and district leaders should redesign job responsibilities to enable great teachers to reach a larger number of students.
  • When implementing new types of work roles, schools should consider many factors, including the individual strengths and weaknesses of teachers.

Research on class-size policies and staffing innovations is particularly timely as several state legislatures are currently debating changes to class-size requirements that could lead to greater flexibility in teacher allocation. To read the reports, click here and here.