The Opportunity Cost of Smaller Classes: A State-By-State Spending Analysis

This latest installment in CRPE’s “Making Ends Meet” policy-brief series laudably infuses a dram of reason into the class-size whirlpool. The brief counters the common and mistaken belief—spurred on by knee-jerk sensationalism and politicking—that class sizes are “skyrocketing”; rather, according to the report’s estimates, class sizes in 2011–12 were actually slightly smaller than they were in 1999–2000. This misconception aside, the authors then set out to determine if the benefits of small class sizes (more individual attention per student) outweigh the costs (both monetary and the cost of saddling students with lower-performing teachers in order to keep class sizes small). The authors demonstrate that increasing the nation’s average class size by just two students could free up $15.7 billion—enough to raise average teacher salary by $5,000 per teacher, provide a laptop for every student, or lengthen the school day in the poorest quintile of schools. Tony Bennett, heads up. (Tom Torklason and leaders of other states with class-size mandates, you too.)

SOURCE: Marguerite Roza and Monica Ouijdani, The Opportunity Cost of Smaller Classes: A State-By-State Spending Analysis (Seattle, WA: Center for Reinventing Public Education, December 2012).

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