Most studies hold that teacher/student ratio is Very Important, especially when it comes to younger students, the elementary school age. (A recent review of the major studies statesConsidering the body of research as a whole, the following policy recommendations emerge:
*Class size is an important determinant of student outcomes, and one that can be directly determined by policy. All else being equal, increasing class sizes will harm student outcomes.
* The evidence suggests that increasing class size will harm not only children’s test scores in the short run, but also their long-run human capital formation. Money saved today by increasing class sizes will result in more substantial social and educational costs in the future.
* The payoff from class-size reduction is greater for low-income and minority children, while any increases in class size will likely be most harmful to these populations.
This is a central idea behind my education reform ideas, which I call the "Little Red Schoolhouse" model, after the school in "little house". And before I get to far, Yes, I recognize that this is, imo, a UNIVERSAL model... as much as I dislike "one size fits all" solutions. The reason this is universal, is because it gives maximum amount of choice and control to the teacher and local level on practices and curriculum, while instituting something that is proven to work.
So, the specifics. In the pre-k to 3rd/4th grade, students would be in a classroom with a ratio of not more than 1:12, regardless of class size. In fact, it might be prudent to have classes of 40-60 in the same room at this point, so students could"float" between instructors, following the students individual interests, with each teacher on a different "subject" at any one time.
Integrating the ages might also be beneficial at this point, so older students could help younger ones as well as have easy access to what we currently stigmatize as "remedial"education, without the stigma. Additionally, we need to slow down some of our requirements, and go back to what worked in the past, specifically, rote learning of basic math, spelling bees and lists, etc. This was very effective in the 30s-60s, and helped create the greatest boom in educated citizens this country has ever seen. And integrating some of the Montessori and "unlearning" ideas which were a part of the classic model can only help
Now the older students get transitioned into more standard classroom models, keep them closely tied to the younger students. You could start with separating 3rd grade out for "special"classes... current events, basic sociology, in depth history classes, local history, field trips, etc... in bigger schools, this would expose kids to the rest of their age group(and give younger kids something to look forward to)
The downside of this plan, politically, is that it doesn't provide quick improvement...it's a long term plan... but that isn't a reason to dismiss it. If this method was put in place today, , we could easily start by bringing older students into the room as "aides" to assist with the younger students for subjects the older students are weak in (many times, teaching a subject reinforces the knowledge of that subject)
I'll cover older students in another post
Please comment, debate and disqus