June 21, 2016

William J. Mathis, (802) 383-0058, wmathis@sover.net
Daniel J. Quinn, (517) 203-2940, dquinn@greatlakescenter.org

Why Class Size Matters

EAST LANSING, Mich. (Jun. 21, 2016) — Parents and teachers regularly extol the virtues of smaller class sizes. Despite this, because school budgets are tied to class size, teacher pay, and benefits, class size often becomes a costly and contentious issue for local school districts.

The ninth in a series of policy briefs addresses why class size matters. Research-Based Options for Education Policymaking is a compilation of short policy briefs that takes important policy issues and identifies policies supported by research. Each section focuses on a different issue, with recommendations to policymakers based on sound scholarship.

The compendium is produced by the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) and is funded in part by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice. In The Effectiveness of Class Size Reduction, William J. Mathis, University of Colorado Boulder, explains how smaller class sizes improve student outcomes, especially for low-income and minority children.

In the brief, Mathis uncovers a clear and positive consensus by an overwhelming majority of peer-reviewed papers that smaller classes are beneficial.

Based on his review, Mathis finds:

  1. All else being equal, lowering class size will improve student outcomes;
  2. The payoff from class-size reduction is greater for low-income and minority children;
  3. Money saved by increasing class sizes will likely result in additional costs in the future; and
  4. Class sizes between 15 and 18 are recommended, but with variations indicated.

Find the concise brief on the GLC website:

This brief is also found on the NEPC website at:

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The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research & Practice is to support and disseminate high quality research and reviews of research for the purpose of informing education policy and to develop research-based resources for use by those who advocate for education reform.

Visit the Great Lakes Center website at http://www.greatlakescenter.org/