Why Class Size Matters? – By Dr. Hind Louali

In research, small classes usually mean fewer than 20 students, depending on the level of education (early elementary versus middle and high school levels). No matter what the cut-off is and what small classes means for the different levels, French School of Austin is keeping this number under 15 per class. Why were we not flexible about this specific point in our school? Both, Mr. and Mrs. Louali, with their combined hundred years of experience in teaching and directing, came to the same conclusion: after a certain number of students, few things fall into the cracks. Reducing class size has shown to have important effect on academic performance, student engagement, and long-term success of the students. Here are few reasons why:

(1) More one-to-one attention: Let’s face it; teachers are overworked in today’s educational system; they deal with chaos in large classrooms, and they take work home after long hours of work. The specific characteristic at French School of Austin is that all curriculum and planning to the single detail, are provided to the teachers. With a large portion of their preparation guided and completed, and with smaller class sizes, teachers are more relaxed, and happy to teach. They can get to know each student as an individual, working with them to enhance their strengths and improve their weaknesses. Happy teachers, happy students 🙂

2) Students and teachers get to know each other better. Instead of the students just being another face in a huge crowd, they’ll be more likely to develop deep and lasting relationships with the other students around them and with their teachers. Some of our students are best friends, and continued their friendships beyond the school, once they graduated.

3) Teachers can tailor instruction more individually. It’s well known that large classrooms have students not reaching their potential, daydreaming, while they wait for everyone to finish learning a concept they figured it out ten minutes in the lesson or worse, the previous year, while other students are left to fend for themselves, left behind. No matter the need of the child, in a small class, the teacher is more likely to be able to tailor the instruction so that it stays on each students’ level. With fewer students, teachers can ensure that students are kept challenged or working at their own pace.

4) There’s less disruption. Disruptions and large classrooms go hand in hand. Even the simple act of allowing students to work together on an assignment can lead to chaos, assuming that the classroom doesn’t come with a troublemaker or two, making at times, personality conflicts worse. Behavior management and discipline takes up more of the class period than actual instruction. In a small classroom, discipline is needed far less often.

(5) There’s more time for instruction. The more the number of students in a classroom grows, the more time has to be used up each day on administrative tasks; simple tasks such as attendance tasks, passing out papers, checking on the work of each student, not to mention the large stack of paper to grade. This all contributes to less likely for teachers to give individual feedback and attention to the students.

(6) The classroom and the students are quieter. Last but lot the least, the reduction of the noise in smaller classrooms. Even when everyone in the classroom is extremely well-behaved, too many students in a large classroom are going to be noisy. There’s a constant rustling of papers, sniffling noses, students shifting in their seats etc…These small distractions can be the difference between a lesson that’s understood completely and one that is not understood at all. Emerging research suggests that noise can have varied effects on student’s learning and his/her memory. In fact, it does not take very much noise to really be detrimental to the listeners. As most of the school materiel is auditory, oral learning, noise and sound can lessen the learning process, and even create more issues for students with anxiety and attention; in fact they are exhausted by the end of the day. Smaller classrooms are just quieter.

(7) Long-Term Success: The benefits of smaller classes extend beyond test scores and student engagement. In addition to the longer-term positive attributes of small class sizes in the early grades, benefits include continued academic and life success. Researchers have found that reducing class size can influence socioeconomic factors including earning potential, improved citizenship, and decreased crime and welfare dependence, and college attendance.

(8) Teacher Retention: Teacher quality has, for some time, been recognized as the most important variable in the academic success of students. Recruiting and retaining effective teachers has become increasingly important. Class size has an effect on the ability to retain effective teachers because those with large classes are more likely to seek other positions.

How about the cost factor? One of the most common arguments against smaller class sizes is financial. Most schools cannot afford to reduce the size of classes because it would be too expensive. It all comes down to the school priorities and the type of education it is looking to provide to their students. There is always a way around it. We did it, so can they! Are there improvements to be made in the school facility and amenities? Sure, of course, there are, but in the meantime, we are providing the students a better student discipline, an improved student safety, along with a better academic performance, a better student engagement and an overall better learning environment.