Making sense of the class size debate (2005)

Lessons in Learning – September 14, 2005

The topic of school class size is a controversial one. Parents and teachers usually support smaller classes, while education officials caution that the costs of reducing class size may outweigh any benefits gained.

After examining available research on the topic, the authors of this article conclude that smaller is indeed better in the primary grades. Furthermore, the benefits accrued from smaller class sizes in the early years of schooling continue throughout the youngster’s school career.

At the same time, they warn that reductions in class sizes must be undertaken carefully. In California, education officials pursued an aggressive class size reduction policy, ignoring the fact that the system could not provide a sufficient number of qualified teachers. The gains anticipated from smaller classes did not materialize as expected because the classes were often staffed by inexperienced teachers.

They also call for the class size reductions in various jurisdictions across Canada to be accompanied by research initiatives designed to measure the long-term impact of smaller class sizes in the Canadian context

The research should also include attention to cost-benefit analyses that will enable decision-makers to determine the return on investment of class size reductions and other educational interventions designed to improve student achievement, such as volunteer tutoring; pull-out programs for students at risk; specialized programs such as reading recovery; and the deployment of teacher assistants.

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APA citation
Canadian Council on Learning (CCL). Making sense of the class size debate 2005. Web. 29 Nov. 2022 <>
Canadian Council on Learning (CCL) (2005). Making sense of the class size debate. Retrieved November 29, 2022, from
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