If you have taught any length of time, then you know that the biggest obstacle to successful classroom management is the sheer number of students. Thus, conventional wisdom says smaller classrooms are better for teachers. This is probably why Betsy DeVos’s latest statement raised some eyebrows:
“There is no evidence that the Federal taxpayer investments in existing professional development programs or class-size reduction have meaningfully improved student outcomes. In fact, students may be better served by being in larger classes, if by hiring fewer teachers, a district or state can better compensate those who have demonstrated high ability and outstanding results.”
There are a number of flaws in this argument. First of all, there is a ton of research that indicates a positive result from reductions in class size. You would have to cherry-pick research that says otherwise. Second, it is a big assumption to assume that successful teachers would remain successful in significantly larger classes. Third, it is an even bigger assumption to assume the “extra” money saved by the district from having fewer teachers would go to the remaining teachers. There are already fewer teachers, and districts are not spreading the money around. Forth, in the environments that this matters most, there is a shortage of teachers period. Where are all of these super-teachers that can teach even larger classes going to come from?
We don’t have to wonder about the hidden benefits of large class sizes because we have already been performing that experiment in public schools out of necessity for the last 40 years. As you may have heard, the results have not been great.
Watch Betsy DeVos defend her argument before a House subcommittee below.