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Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, (847) 491-3884,
Dan Quinn, (517) 203-2940,

Policy brief finds strong evidence for the benefits of making classes smaller

EAST LANSING, Mich. (Feb. 18, 2014) – The critics are mistaken. Class size matters. A new policy brief out today demonstrates the common-sense notion that children learn more and teachers are more effective in smaller classes and is supported by research.

In a new policy brief, professor Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach points out that class size reduction is an important determinant of student outcomes, one that can be directly determined by policy.  The brief, Does Class Size Matter?, is published by the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) with funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

Schanzenbach indicates that the evidence suggests that increasing class size will not only harm 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."

Furthermore, Schanzenbach finds that the pay-off from class-size reduction is greater for low-income and minority children. Increases to class-size for those populations will likely be harmful.

According to Professor Schanzenbach, class-size reduction has been the victim of a popular misconception that the strategy has been largely unsuccessful.

"Policymakers should carefully weigh the efficacy of class-size policy against other potential uses of funds," Schanzenbach concludes. "While lower class size has a demonstrable cost, it may prove to be the more cost-effective policy overall."

Find Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach's brief, Does Class Size Matter? on the web:

This policy brief was produced by the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) at the University of Colorado Boulder with funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

You can also find the brief on the NEPC website:

Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach is Associate Professor of Human Development and Social Policy and Chair of the Institute for Policy Research's Program on Child, Adolescent, and Family Studies at Northwestern University. She studies education policy, child health, and food consumption. Her current work examines the life paths of children who were randomly assigned to kindergarten classrooms in the 1980s as part of the Tennessee Project STAR experiment.

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The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and 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.

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