Smaller schools, not classes

The Atlantic reports:

One of the policies you advocate for is “smaller schools.” Why are smaller schools key but smaller classrooms aren’t?

It’s a fascinating answer. The small classroom size thing, you could write a book just on that, how we got to this confusion about that. First of all, it’s an intuitive one. If there’s less students, it’s better because one-on-one tutoring is so good. The closer we can get to one-on-one tutoring, that must be the answer. It’s a thing we believe in. So no matter what the data shows, the public opinion is heavily in that camp.

Everybody, the great majority of references to classroom size evidence is from this one study,  which hasn’t been duplicated with that kind of effect, ever. [The Tennessee STAR study] appears to be been the best study because it had randomized control trials, all that stuff, but ultimately it’s never been duplicated in that capacity and there were so many things that they couldn’t account for.

[Smaller classrooms] are not part of the equation for closing the achievement gap. In fact, don’t think any of the schools that are closing the achievement gap are using small classrooms as part of their criterion. It’s because it costs so much, it puts so much tax on the rest of all the other stuff that needs to be done. It doesn’t have the kind of impact that the [quality of the] teacher does and the other stuff does.

This is a key point. For years money has gone into smaller class sizes, and it has almost no impact. That is money that could have been spent on things that do make a real difference such as teacher quality.

So why are smaller schools one of your “five keys”?

Small schools is a catalyzer, it’s like a turbocharger for all the other tenets. So let’s take one [tenet, school leadership,] for example: The research supports that a principal needs to be teaching teachers. This sounds so obvious: A coach needs to be coaching the players. … If that principal is in charge of 40 classrooms, 40 teachers, he can do [closely oversee the teachers]. But if he is in charge of 400, he can’t do that. There is just a limit to doing it. So that’s just one example.

wonder if that applies in NZ. Is there data on school size vs achievement?

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