In a recent interview on NPR’s “Talk of the Nation” program, Eva Moskowitz, the founder and CEO of the Success Charter Network, discussed her opinion that class size is not nearly as important as people make it out to be. The theory has been that a smaller class size enables teachers to spend more time one-on-one with their students, thus improving the quality of their education. Moskowitz argues that this is not always the case.
She claims that too much emphasis has been placed on keeping class sizes small (i.e., below 25 students), and not enough on the quality of the education the students are receiving. With recent budget cuts, schools have had to cut certain programs and lay off teachers, so class sizes have become larger. Moskowitz asserts that it is more important to structure the schools around the needs of the children, and as such, it is important to hire quality teachers and principals, and to apply a cost-benefit analysis to the situation; with such an analysis, there are a few benefits to larger class sizes that one would not find in a smaller classroom. For example, with a larger class size, while a teacher may not be able to spend as much time one-on-one with their students, hiring an assistant teacher to help with this is a beneficial move. Moskowitz argues that there are certain trade-offs one must consider when choosing a class size. To quote: “I think that if I had to make the choice between 32 and 34 kids, it would depend on what I would get in the bargain. In other words, if I could take my kids to trips across the country, and I could hire a tutor to help them in math, those are the trade-offs that we have to be looking at.”
Moskowitz has denounced the laws that mandate class size to a certain number, because it takes away the flexibility of the school system. To quote Moskowitz: “…it actually takes away the principals’ and the teachers’ ability to be nimble and to say, well, you know what? This year, why don’t we have 24 kids in a class. And that would allow us to pay for an assistant teacher. Or that would allow us to raise teachers’ salaries. Or that will allow us to get all the supplies that our kids need to be really, really engaged and productive.” After all, what is a geography class without maps and globes, a math class without calculators, or an art class without paintbrushes?
Larger class sizes allow schools to become better structured and more flexible to the students’ needs. It’s not a crazy idea, so why not give it a shot?