Early Childhood Education: Research and Resources (top of page)
I. Why Early Childhood Education is an
effective strategy for Improving School Success:
1. National Center for Education Statistics, Early
Childhood Longitudinal Study – Kindergarten Class of 1998–99.
February 2000. America’s Kindergartners. Shows that children’s success
in schools is related to events and experiences that occur prior to entering
kindergarten. The report demonstrates that risk factors such as having a
mother with less than a high school diploma, being from a single-mother
family, living in poverty and having a non-English primary language relate
to difference in children’s knowledge, skills, and health at school entry,
and those differences persist over time after school entry. (http://nces.ed.gov)
2. The Rand Corporation Report, Improving
Student Achievement: What NAEP Test Scores Tell Us. Differences in state
scores for students with similar families can be accounted for by
differences in pupil teacher ratios in lower grades, higher participation in
prekindergarten programs and a higher percentage of teachers who are
satisfied with the resources provided for teaching. (http://www.rand.org/publications/MR/MR924/MR924.sum.pdf.)
3. Americas Children: Key National
Indicators of Children’s Well Being. A report by the Interagency Forum
on Child and Family Statistics, provides in an accessible format, key
indicators of children’s well being in America, and highlights the need
for increased investment in early prevention and intervention for high risk
4. Preventing Reading Difficulties in
Young Children, Washington DC, The National Research Council, 1998,
highlights the importance of early learning for literacy development and
later school success. The report identifies specific risk factors and
recommends high quality early childhood education as an effective strategy
for preventing school failure. (www.nap.edu)
5. "How are the Children?"
Report on Early Childhood Development and Learning, September 1999. This
publication focuses attention on the importance of the early years in child
development and learning and presents 10 key lessons from current research
on child development. Research suggests that mechanisms are needed for
schools to work more closely with preschools and childcare programs. (www.ed.gov/pubs/How-Children.html)
6. From Neurons to Neighborhoods, The
Science of Early Childhood Development, National Research Council and
Institute of Medicine, 2000, presents the latest scientific thinking about
the developing brain and the development of young children. The report
highlights the importance of prevention and early intervention and makes
recommendations regarding the care of infants, mental health issues in the
preschool years, early intervention and school readiness. (www.nap.edu)
II. What is the Cost Effectiveness of
Providing High Quality Early Childhood Education:
1. Cost Quality and Outcomes Student,
Frank Porter Graham Child Development Center, University of North
Carolina at Chapel Hill, June 1999, demonstrates that high quality early
childcare positively affects children’s cognitive and social skills
through the second grade. The report also found that children at risk of
school failure are more affected by the quality of their childcare
experiences than other children. (www.fpg.edu/-NCEDL/PAGES/cqes.htm)
2. Early Learning, Later Success, The
Abecedarian Study reports significant findings when quality,
comprehensive early intervention services are provided to low-income
children. Among them:
"Young adults who received
early educational intervention had significantly higher mental test scores
from toddlerhood through age 21 than did untreated controls."
"Enhanced language skills in
the children appears to have mediated the effects of early intervention on
mental test performance (i.e., cognitive skills)."
"Reading achievement scores
were consistently higher for individuals with early intervention.
Treatment effect sizes remained large from primary school through age 21.
Enhanced cognitive skills appeared to mediate treatment effects on reading
Mathematics achievement showed a
pattern similar to that for reading, with treated individuals earning
higher scores. Again, enhanced cognitive functioning appeared to mediate
treatment effect." (http://www.fpg.unc.edu/~abc/index.htm)
3. Long-Term Effects of Early Childhood
Programs on Cognitive and School Outcomes, and article by W. Steven
Barnett, Ph.D., finds that early childhood programs can produce large
short-term benefits for children on intelligence quotient (IQ) and sizable
long-term effects on school achievement, grade retention, placement in
special education, and social adjustment. (http://www.futureofchildren.org/lto/02_lto.htm)
4. The Perry Preschool Project estimates the
public save $7 for each dollar invested in quality preschool programs. Study
findings indicate "Almost a third again as many preschool program group
members as no-preschool program group members graduated from regular or
adult high school or received General Education Development certification
(71% vs. 54%)." (http://www.highscope.org/research/RESPER.HTM)
5. A Six County Study of the Effects of Smart
Start Child Care on Kindergarten Entry Skill found that children who did not
attend quality early childhood programs prior to school entry were almost
twice as likely to score poorly on measures of behavior problems in
Kindergarten as those who attended SmartStart programs. (http://www.fpg.unc.edu/~smartstart/)
III. What are the critical elements of high
quality early childhood education that promote success in school?
1. Eager to Learn: Educating our
Preschoolers, 2000, The National Research Council, Commission on
Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education, reviews and synthesizes the
theory, research and knowledge base for early childhood and outline
implications and recommendations for current policy and practice. The report
highlights practices that enhance the development of children in poverty,
children with limited English proficiency and children with disabilities. (www.nap.edu)
2. Measuring the Quality of Program
Environment in Head Start and Other Early Childhood Programs: A Review and
Recommendation for Future Research, National Center for Education
Statistics, October 1997, providers a frameworks for designing and
evaluating quality early learning environments including classroom dynamics,
classroom structure, staff characteristics, administration and support
services, and parent involvement. (http://nces.ed.gov)
3. Building Strong Foundations for Early
Learning, The U.S. Department of Education Guide to High Quality Early
Childhood Education Programs, November 2000, provides a guide and
self-assessment tool for the development and implementation of quality early
learning programs. It provides research, child outcomes and program quality
4. Starting Out Right: A Guide to
Promoting Children’s Reading Success, Washington D.C.: Committee in
the Prevention of Reading Difficulties in Youth Children, National Research
Council, is a practitioners guide for providing high quality early learning
opportunities rich in language and literacy for children birth through the
primary grades. (www.nap.edu)
5. The Role of Program Quality in
Producing Early Childhood Program Benefit, by E.C. Frede, 1995, is an
article included in the future of children: Long term outcomes in early
childhood programs. (www.futureofchildren.org/lto/02_lto.htm)
6. Learning to Read and Write: Develop
Mentally Appropriate Practices for Young Children. A joint position
statement of the International Reading Association and the National
Association for the Education of Young Children; May 1998, Young Children,
7. Guide to Improving Parenting Education
in Even Start Family Literacy Programs, September 2000, By Doug Powell
and Diane D’Angelo, provides a concise framework for parenting education
focused on supporting children’s development, and family self sufficiency.
IV. What are some effective strategies for
promoting high quality early learning opportunities for children at risk of
1. Evidence from the Past and a Look to
the Future, National Evaluation of the Even Start Family Literacy
Program, 1998, U.S. Department of Planning and Evaluation Service. (http://www.ed.gov)
2. Partnering for Success, Community
Approaches to Early Learning A Report on Partnerships in Low-Income
Communities, Childcare Action Campaign, April 2000, highlights exemplary
partnerships among schools, childcare providers and Head Start that are
producing positive outcomes for children from low income communities
(50–100% of families at poverty level). (childcareaction.org)
3. Child Trends Research Brief, School
Readiness: Helping Communities Get Children Ready for School and Schools
Ready for Children, August 2000, Executive Summary of a longer Child
Trend Report, Background for Community-Level Work on School Readiness: A
Review of Definitions, Assessments and Investment Strategies prepared for
the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, 2000. (www.childtrends.org)
4. School Involvement in Early Childhood,
U.S. Department of Education, July 2000, is a publication that provides
information and ideas about public school prekindergarten and other
preschool care and education initiatives that are linked with public
schools. It provides examples of how state and communities are designing
programs to expand and improve preschool care and education. (http://www.ed.gov/pubs/schoolinvolvement/)
V. Additional Resources/Organizations
1. Administration for Children and Families (www.acf.dhhs.gov/)
2. Center for the Improvement of Early
Reading Achievement (www.ciera.org)
3. Center for Multilingual and Multicultural
4. Children’s Defense Fund (www.childrensdefense.org/)
5. Early Childhood Education and Assistance
Program Washington State-Funded Early Childhood Education Program (www.ocd.wa.gov/info/csdwaeceap/index.html)
6. ERIC Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early
Childhood Education (ERIC/EECE) (http://www.ericeece.org/)
7. Families and Work Institute (www.familiesandwork.org/)
8. Indian Health Service (www.his.gov/)
9. International Reading Association (http://www.reading.org)
10. National Association for the Education of
Young Children (NAEYC) (http://www.naeyc.org)
11. National Association of Early Childhood
Specialists in State Departments of Education (NAECS/SDE) (http://ericps.crc.uiuc.edu/naecs/abtnaecs.html)
12. National Black Child Development
13. National Center for Children in Poverty (cpmcnet.columbia.edu/dept/nccp/)
14. National Center for Family Literacy (www.famlit.org/index.html)
15. National Center for early Development and
Learning (NCEDL) (http://www.fpg.unc.edu/NCEDL)
16. National Childcare Information Center (NCCIC)
17. National Institute on Early Childhood
Development and Education, Early Childhood Institute (ECI) (http://www.ed.gov/offices/OERI/ECI/)
18. Report of the Governor’s Commission
on Early Learning, June 2000, WA State. (http://www.governor.wa.gov/early/homel.htm)
19. The Council for Exceptional Children (http://www.cec.sped.org)
20. U.S. Department of Health and Human
21. Zero to Three: National Center for
Infants, Toddlers and Families (www.zerotothree.org/)
Elements of Effective Extended Learning Programs (top of page)
The success of extended-time programs depends
on the decisions that educators and planners make in designing and
implementing programs. Program success evolves from goals that specifically
address students' needs. These goals promote high academic and behavioral
standards and cultivate productive links between the student and the world
beyond the classroom. Particularly promising practices include:
Careful planning and design,
including (1) clearly defined needs and goals; (2) determination of the best
time of the day, week, or year to offer the program and of the amount of
time to be added to students' learning opportunities; and (3) consideration
of program costs.
Links between the extended time and the
regular academic program. Good extended-time programs connect the added time
to regular school experiences so that students learn and succeed
academically. These connections are made in three ways: (1) Regular teachers
and principals refer children to the program and provide information on
students' particular needs; (2) regular teachers staff the extended-time
opportunities, increasing the programs' coordination and continuity with
normal classroom activities; or (3) programs use textbooks and materials
from the students' regular classes for extended-time tutoring and homework
A clear focus on using extended time
effectively. Good extended-time programs use instructional practices that
actively engage students' attention and commitment. These practices may
include traditional classroom methods, such as individualized instruction
and the use of both direct and indirect teaching, as well as organized
recreational or cultural activities. To motivate and excite students, many
successful extended-learning opportunities do not replicate what is offered
by the regular school program but build on and enrich it.
A well-defined organization and management
structure. As programs evolve, planners must develop structures for hiring
and supervising staff, selecting students, monitoring performance, and
guiding the program. The shape of these structures depends on whether
programs are developed by schools, by districts, or in partnership with
outside agencies or organizations.
Parent and community involvement. Research
shows that collaboration between schools, parents, and communities widens
the pool of resources, expertise, and activities available to any program,
giving disadvantaged students more options. Successful programs feature
involvement by parents or the community, or both. In many cases, parents and
other community members play an active role in planning, designing, or
managing extended-learning opportunities.
A strong professional community. Professional
staff development for the programs profiled in this idea book varies
according to budgets and program goals. At a minimum, staff development
offers an orientation to program goals and objectives, curriculum, and
requirements. Other areas for staff development often include expansion of
teachers' instructional repertories, ideas for enrichment and hands-on
activities, interpersonal skills, subject-matter expertise, cultural
awareness, techniques for working with students with special needs, and
Cultural sensitivity. Many good programs make
cultural sensitivity a priority that manifests itself in activities for
students--such as bilingual instruction and cultural clubs and events--as
well as in staff development. Some programs reach beyond the cultures of
their own participants to the greater diversity of the community, through
field trips, guest speakers, and special seminars. Indeed, good programs
unfailingly incorporate the needs and resources of local communities.
A continuous search for creative funding.
Program planners must search for funding continuously and creatively,
looking to both new and traditional sources of funding for support. Options
include federal categorical programs, special funding from state departments
of education, funds from private foundations and educational organizations,
and support from community agencies and organizations.
A willingness to resolve or work around
obstacles. Extended-time programs for disadvantaged students face many
challenges to planning and implementation, including problems with
attendance, transportation, staffing, and safety during non-school hours.
Good programs find ways to resolve or work around these obstacles. In
particular, programs that have experienced long-term success appear to have
solved the problems of reliable transportation and locating the program in a
safe, central location.
Thoughtful evaluation of program success.
Success in school and beyond requires not only intellectual but also social
and emotional growth. Several programs profiled here assess student progress
not only by typical measures of academic achievement, but also by outcomes
such as level of self-esteem, leadership, and the ability to work
effectively with others to solve problems. Extended-time programs need to be
evaluated regularly, using multiple measures of success that reflect each
Learning Time for Disadvantaged Students: An Idea Book
Prepared for the U.S. Department of Education
by Policy Studies Associates, Washington, D.C.
Volume 1: Summary of Promising Practices http://www.ed.gov/pubs/Extending/vol1/index.html
Volume 2: Profiles of Promising Practices http://www.ed.gov/pubs/Extending/vol2/
Links to information related to Extended
Bringing Education to After-school Programs
This website provides ideas on how schools
and districts can use after-school programs to promote student achievement
and meet the needs of their students and community. Each of the activities
illustrated includes suggestions for additional resources that are available
through the U.S. Department of Education. Topics covered include:
- How to integrate a high quality reading
effort into an after-school program
- How to integrate mathematics into
- How to integrate getting students ready for
college early with after-school programs
- How to integrate teacher training into an
- How to integrate technology into an
- How to integrate parent and community
involvement into after-school programs
Keeping Schools Open as Community Learning
This website includes a guidebook which
outlines the steps needed to successfully convert a school into a community
learning center and lists resources for further information and assistance.
Included are concrete suggestions for how to:
after-school and summer programs based on the type of activities and
services offered, the times that the program operates, whether
transportation and materials are required, and the experience of the
Develop a Community Learning Center budget
for establishing and operating
Build consensus and partnership among
diverse partners: not only parents and educators, but also community
residents, service providers and public officials.
Conduct a community assessment of needs and
resources using interviews,
surveys, focus groups, and community forums.
Design an effective program to
address local conditions and concerns, establish vision and focus, and
establish a system of accountability from the beginning.
Consider logistical issues such as school
governance, liability, and building maintenance issues.
Obtain qualified staff from
the school, a partner agency, or the community
Evaluate a program's accomplishments to help
leaders and staff maintain their focus, improve effectiveness and
accountability, ensure parent and participant satisfaction, and identify
Child Care Bulletin, Issue 23
This issue of the Child Care Bulletin
provides information on out-of-school time trends, research, funding
opportunities and resources, as well as state initiatives and
public–private partnerships that are striving to expand school-age
opportunities to all children when they are not in school.
Extending Learning Time for Disadvantaged
Students: An Idea Book
Volume 1 – Summary of Promising Practices http://www.ed.gov/pubs/Extending/vol1/index.html
Volume 2 – Profiles of Promising Practices http://www.ed.gov/pubs/Extending/vol2/
Volume 1 describes promising strategies used
by 14 programs to extend learning time for disadvantaged students in diverse
settings, using volunteers and community-based professionals as well as
classroom teachers. These programs involve children, families, and
communities in a concerted effort to prevent student failure and nurture
Volume 2 is intended as a resource for
practitioners interested in implementing extended learning opportunities for
students. The approaches described here rely on a broad definition of
learning time that includes traditional classroom instruction, community
service, and extracurricular and cultural activities. While the programs
included here are just a few of many successful efforts to extend learning
opportunities, together they provide a snapshot of the range of options
available in rural, suburban, and inner-city areas serving students of
diverse racial and ethnic heritage. In addition to profiles of these
programs, appendices provide (1) contact information on program planners who
are willing to share their experiences; (2) other planning resources
including case studies of extended-time programs, national organizations
that offer extended learning opportunities for youth, and relevant national
associations and resource centers; and (3) a checklist of important
considerations for those planning or implementing extended-time programs.
Urban After-School Programs: Evaluations and
To date, research to determine which types of
programs work best with urban youth has been limited, in part due to a
historical disinclination to spend time and money on evaluations and in part
due to difficulties specific to investigations of after-school programs.
Recently, however, the Center for Research on the Education of Students
Placed at Risk (CRESPAR), at Johns Hopkins University and Howard University,
conducted a survey of 34 programs currently in use after school or in use
during school but with the potential for use after school. CRESPAR's Review
of Extended-Day and After-School Programs and Their Effectiveness
describes specific programs (and provides contact information), common
program types, and curricular and instructional strategies that seem to be
effective. This digest, updating two 1996 Clearinghouse publications on
urban after-school programs, offers a distillation of CRESPAR's findings.
Beyond the Bell: A Toolkit for Creating
Effective After-School Programs http://www.ncrel.org/after/bellkit.htm
This toolkit, produced by the North Central
Regional Educational Laboratory presents practical strategies for planning
and implementing before-school, summer, and extended-day activities. With
the help of this toolkit, you will learn to make informed decisions about
critical issues such as management, collaboration, programming, evaluation,
and communication. Order this product or download it off the Internet to
discover how to build a strong program out of hard work, clear focus, strong
leadership, careful needs analysis, and effective decision making.
This article reviews benefits and problems
encountering with looping for various grade levels. It also offers tips for
implementation and provides citations for other articles and resources
related to this pedagogical strategy.
This digest describes variations on the block
scheduling theme, discusses advantages and challenges associated with
implementing block scheduling, and provides citations for other articles and
resources related to this organizational structure.
Extending Learning Time. Taking
Responsibility for Ending Social Promotion: A Guide for Educators and State
and Local Leaders
This site offers advice about establishing
after-school and summer programs, as well moving toward year round
schooling. It provides several examples of successful programs around the
country and reports on the results of academic achievement for students who
Saturday School: Raising Hispanic Academic
Raising Hispanic Academic Achievement is a
Saturday program in which volunteers from high schools, universities, and
various professions tutor students in math, science, and English. The
program, begun in 1992 and designed to increase the number of Hispanic
students who graduate from high school prepared to pursue a career in math
or science, emphasizes individualized instruction and self-esteem building.
This website offers an overview of the major features of the program,
including its academic focus, organizational structure, funding, and
assessment and accountability systems.
Michigan Extended School Year Programs
1992-1995. An evaluation of a State Grant Initiative.
Susan F. Axelrad-Lentz (1996). http://ericae.net.ericdb/ED410251.htm
Elisabeth A. Palmer and Amy E. Bemis
This article provides a comprehensive review
of the literature and research on effective models of year-round education,
including a description of the various models of year-round education being
implemented nationwide, a discussion of the perceived advantages and
disadvantages of these alternative calendars, a review of research on the
effects of year-round education on student achievement and related outcomes.
Year-Round Schools: A Twenty-Year Follow-up
Study of a Nationally Recognized Single Track Four-Quarter Plan at the High
School Level. James C. Bradford Jr.
Year-Round Education: An AskERIC Info Guide
This infoguide provides an overview of
year-round education, including history, patterns of implementation, various
calendars, intersession arrangements, and examples of schools utilizing YRE.
In particular, this infoguide touches on the main points in the debate,
particularly cost effectiveness and effect on student achievement and
directs readers to specific areas which need to be addressed when
considering YRE. It is aimed at educators, school administrators, parents
and students who are considering the move to year-round education.
Links to Federal Resources for Extended
Two major sources of federal funding for
extended learning programs are the U.S. Dept. of Education's 21st Century
Community Learning Centers (CCLC) program and the Child Care Bureau's Child
Care and Development Fund (CCDF).
The focus of the 21st Century
Community Learning Centers program, authorized under Title X, Part I, of
the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, is to provide expanded learning
opportunities for participating children in a safe, drug-free and supervised
environment. The CCLC program enables schools to stay open longer, providing
a safe place for homework centers, intensive mentoring in basic skills, drug
and violence prevention counseling, helping middle school students to
prepare to take college prep courses in high school, enrichment in the core
academic subjects as well as opportunities to participate in recreational
activities, chorus, band and the arts, and technology education programs.
Congress has supported this initiative by appropriating $846 million for
after-school programs in Fiscal Year 2001 (up from $453 million in 2000).
For more information on CCLC visit http://www.ed.gov/offices/OESE/21stcclc/
For more information on CCDF, visit www.nccic.org/ccb/issue23/issue23.html.
for information about more than 100 sources of federal funding for
after-school and youth development programming. For each of the more than
100 programs listed in the database, you will find a brief description of
the kinds of activities that can be funded, along with information about the
application process, and contact information (web site addresses and
telephone numbers). Information is provided about funding: the costs of
running a program; staff costs; facilities; technology and computer support;
transportation; after-school snacks; technical assistance; collaborations
between community-based organizations and local government or colleges and
universities; planning activities; and loans and guarantees for
Reducing Class Size (top of page)
How does Washington’s student-teacher ratio
compare with other states?
Washington’s student-teacher ratio has
consistently been one of the highest in the nation, despite steps the state
has taken to reduce the ratio in the early grades. Many other states have
also mandated smaller classes in elementary grades or established incentive
programs to finance smaller classes. In 1996, Washington ranked 48th
in the nation with a ratio of 20.4 students per teacher. Most states focus
on reducing the ratio in the primary grades, generally K-3, and typically
set the average K-3 class size at about 20 students. For example, California
recently initiated an effort to reduce the size of all K-3 classrooms from
about 29 to no more than 20 students. In the U.S., the ratio has declined
from nearly 27 to 1 in 1955 to 16.8 to 1 in 1998.
How does the student-teacher ratio vary
Student-teacher ratio gradually gets smaller
as the socioeconomic status of a district or school declines. Hence, poorer
schools tend to have lower ratios. The smallest ratios are usually found
among the smallest districts and those with higher per pupil spending
What is the difference between the
student-teacher ratio and class size?
The student-teacher ratio is often used as a
proxy for class size, but the two are not the same. The ratio includes
teachers who either provide instruction for special student populations
outside the regular classroom or who may not have full-time teaching
assignments. Hence, the ratio understates the number of children in a
typical classroom. According to national research, the average class size in
a regular classroom is generally 33-40 percent larger than the
What are some of the major factors that can
influence class size?
The level of funding and the way staff are
allocated and compensated have the most influence on class size. Higher per
pupil expenditures enable more teachers to be hired, which reduces the
ratio. Having a greater percentage of staff who are teachers also helps
reduce the ratio. Higher staff compensation decreases the funds available to
hire teachers, which can increase the ratio. In addition, the amount of
space and classrooms available in a school or district can influence the
number of students that are served, which in turn affects the ratio.
Is there an ideal class size?
There is no agreement on the optimum class
size. Estimates of the ideal class size range from as low as 15-17 students
per class up to 23-25 students per class. After examining many studies on
class size, several researchers reported that it takes large reductions to
substantially improve performance. Thus, reducing the ratio from 28 to 26 or
from 24 to 22 may not have much discernable effect.
What is known about the effect of class size
reduction on student outcomes?
Research has found that reducing class sizes
has a positive effect on student outcomes in the primary (K-3) grades. For
example, the Tennessee Student-Teacher Achievement Ratio (STAR) experiment,
the only research using a true experimental design to study the impact of
smaller classes, found that student performance improves in smaller classes
in the primary (K-3) grades, with the gains enduring through later years.
After one year in kindergarten, classes with about 15 students performed 5-8
percentile points better on standardized tests than students in classes with
22-24 students. Recent evaluations of Wisconsin’s class size reduction
efforts found that students in smaller classes had better test scores than
similar students in larger classes.
Disadvantaged students benefit more with
smaller classes. There is less evidence that smaller classes have much
influence on student outcomes in the upper grades or among students who are
not disadvantaged in some way.
Smaller class sizes help improve student
outcomes because teachers can spend more individual time with their students
discussing academic and personal matters and less time disciplining
students, which increases the amount of time on task for all students.
Smaller classes also have a positive influence on teacher morale.
What else is important to know about reducing
Deciding the best way to use available
resources requires an analysis of the cost-effectiveness of the alternatives
and their consequences, not just their overall effectiveness. So in addition
to the above, the following factors should be kept in mind when considering
class size reduction efforts.
1. Making large reductions in class sizes can be
costly for two reasons. First, it usually requires districts to hire many
more teachers. Reconfiguring existing staff can create more teachers at the
expense of other positions, but in most cases, more teachers are needed.
Moreover, class size reduction efforts become progressively more expensive
as the student-teacher ratio gets smaller. Smaller reductions would be less
costly but may not improve student performance much. Second, more facilities
and a different use of space may be required to accommodate the extra
classes, which may require additional capital costs. Districts in California
implementing large reductions have turned libraries, gyms, and other spaces
into classrooms and have purchased portable classrooms to provide space for
2. If the goal of the spending is better student
outcomes, research has found that the quality of the teacher in the
classroom has more influence on test scores than reducing class sizes. A
recent analysis of 60 well-designed studies found that increased teacher
education and experience had more than four times the impact on test scores
per dollar spent than did lowering the student-teacher ratio. This research
suggests considering efforts to improve teacher access to high quality
professional development. A recent national survey of teachers found that
many do not feel well prepared to face future teaching challenges, including
increasing technological changes and greater diversity in the classroom.
3. Spending $500 more per student to reduce
class sizes has been found to raise student scores up to 5 percentage points
on norm-referenced tests. This level of improvement may not be sufficient to
meet higher state standards, so other ways to spend additional funds need to
be considered in conjunction with reducing class size. Besides the
cost-effective investments noted above related to improving teacher quality,
other research has found that restructuring how time and existing resources
are used can improve student learning at relatively little additional cost,
even in schools with high levels of students from low-income families.
4. If not implemented carefully, making large
reductions can also have unintended consequences in some schools and
districts. According to several recent studies, California’s class-size
reduction program has resulted in an increase in uncertified teachers, a
shortage of substitute and bilingual teachers, movement of more experienced
teachers to schools and districts perceived to have better teaching
environments, and a shift of teachers from secondary to primary schools and
from special education to regular education. Thus, if all districts and
schools decide to reduce class sizes, it can affect the quality of the
teaching force in some schools and districts.
Links to Information Related
to Class Sizes Reduction
Project STAR: Student Teacher Achievement
Ratio Project in Tennessee. www.telalink.net/~heros/star.htm
Project STAR was a four-year longitudinal
class-size study funded by the Tennessee General Assembly and conducted by
the State Department of Education. Over 7,000 kindergarten students in 79
schools were randomly assigned to one of three classroom settings: small
class (13-17 students per teacher), regular class (22-25 students per
teacher), and regular-with-aide class (22-25 students per teacher with a
full-time teacher’s aide). Classroom teachers were also randomly
assigned to classes. The random classroom assignments continued for
students and teachers through the third grade.
Early and ongoing analyses of academic
achievement have consistently and significantly demonstrated the advantage
of small classes over regular classes and regular classes with an aide.
Recent follow-up studies have found that students placed in the small
classes in grades K-3 have higher grade point averages in high school,
better high school graduation rates, and are more inclined to pursue
higher education. This website provides links to many documents related to
Tennessee’s Project STAR.
Student Achievement Guarantee in Education
(SAGE) in Wisconsin.
Center for Education Research, Analysis &
The Student Achievement Guarantee in
Education (SAGE) program in Wisconsin is a statewide effort to increase
the academic achievement of children living in poverty by reducing the
student-teacher ratio in kindergarten through third grade to 15-1. Schools
participating in the SAGE program are also required to implement a
rigorous academic curriculum, provide before- and after-school activities
for students and community members, and implement professional development
and accountability plans. This website provides access to the ongoing
evaluation of the SAGE initiative. The state’s website for the program
Class Size Reduction in California: The
1998-1999 Evaluation Final Report.
CSR Research Consortium. June, 2000. www.classize.org
Expectations about the benefits of reduced
class sizes have remained high, partly because ongoing analyses of
Tennessee’s Student/Teacher Achievement Ratio (STAR) project found that
benefits of small classes in kindergarten through third grade are
sustained well into high school. This report, the second in a series,
documents the findings of a study of reduced class sizes in California,
during the third year of the program (1998-1999). A similar document by
WestEd and PACE analyzes the first year of California’s class size
reduction efforts. The link to this report, California’s Class
Size Reduction: Implications for Equity, Practice & Implementation (March
1998), is found at http://www.westEd.org/policy/pubs/full_text/class_size/main.htm.
Crowding Out: Small Classes Teach a Lesson
in Unintended Consequences.
RAND Corp. Fall, 1999. www.rand.org/publications/RRR/RRRfall99/crowd.html
California’s massive effort to reduce the
size of primary-grade classes—one of the largest educational reforms in
U.S. history—requires major adjustments to make sure the huge investment
pays off, according to this early evaluation of the program. On the
positive side, California’s third graders in classes of 20 or fewer
students have achieved slightly higher test scores than students in larger
classes. The gains have been made equally by students of all ethnic,
racial, economic, and linguistic backgrounds.
On the negative side, the rapid
implementation of the program has worsened the inequities among schools.
The push to reduce class sizes has exacerbated space shortages at already
overcrowded, inner-city schools. It is tougher for overcrowded,
land-restricted schools to add classrooms, which makes them more likely to
usurp space from libraries, computer labs, arts and music programs, child
care, and special education. Further, the program has created 23,500 new
teaching jobs—a 38% increase in the number of kindergarten through 3rd
grade teachers. Many of the new teachers are minimally qualified, allowing
the most qualified to pick and choose from the "most desirable"
schools. Consequently, the better-qualified teachers often leave the
inner-city, low-income, heavily minority, and heavily immigrant schools
where they may be needed the most.
Class Size Reduction: Lessons Learned from
WestEd Policy Brief. August, 1998. http://www.wested.org/policy/pubs/full_text/pb_ft_csr23.htm
Wide agreement exists that the critical
question is not whether class size can make a difference in student
achievement, but how and under what circumstances. Other questions relate
to the costs and benefits of reducing class sizes and the cost
effectiveness of alternatives. For those designing class size reduction
policies, many questions must be addressed about the trade-offs of
differing policy options and how these may affect student outcomes.
This brief addresses each of these
concerns, drawing from the experiences of states and districts with a
track record of reducing class size. It starts from the position that
class size reduction is not a silver bullet or an end in itself. Rather,
it is one approach that has been shown to be effective in reaching the
goal of improved early learning. Success depends on getting the number of
students down and on policies that support schools’ ability to take
advantage of the opportunities the reductions present.
Class Size and Students At Risk: What is
Known? What is Next?
U.S. Dept. of Education. April 1998 http://www.ed.gov/pubs/ClassSize/title.html
This document focus mainly on the effects
of small classes in the early grades. The first chapter reviews the status
of research on class size, with particular attention to the STAR
investigation in Tennessee and to the research spawned by STAR. The
conclusiveness of the findings are discussed as well as implications for
students at risk and for education policy in general. The second chapter
discusses approaches that have been taken to assess the costs and benefits
of reducing class size and proposes additional dimensions that need to be
considered. The third chapter explores the implications of small class
size for classroom management and instructional strategies, with
particular attention to the need to increase the academic engagement of
students at risk. Issues requiring further research are identified
throughout the paper. The assumption that the early years lay the
foundation for much that follows is explicit throughout this document.
Another U.S. Department of Education
document, Reducing Class Size: What Do We Know? (April 1998)
provides a general overview of the research on class size reductions and
the reasons for the positive effects of smaller classes. The link to this
document is http://www.ed.gov/pubs/ReducingClass/.
Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis,
Vol. 21, No. 2. (Summer 1999)
This entire special issue of a
well-respected journal published by the American Educational Research
Association provides a number of articles on issues related to reducing
(Scroll down the page to get to the list of articles in the Summer issue).
Nearly all districts in Washington
participate in the federal program to reduce the number of students in a
classroom. These links at OSPI and the U.S. Department of Education provide
more information about the program in Washington and nationwide.
Student-Teacher Ratio (1995-96
Students Per Teacher
Data from the Department of Education National Center for Education
NSDC Standard for Staff Development (top of page)
Context Standards. Effective
high school, middle level and elementary school staff development:
* requires and fosters a norm of continuous
* requires strong leadership in order to
obtain continuing support and to motivate all staff, school board members,
parents and the community to be advocates for continuous improvement.
* is aligned with the school's and the
district's strategic plan and is funded by a line item in the budget.
* provides adequate time during the work
day for staff members to learn and work together to accomplish the
school's mission and goals.
* is an innovation in itself that requires
study of the change process.
Process Standards. Effective
high school, middle level and elementary school staff development:
* provides knowledge, skills, and attitudes
regarding organization development and systems thinking.
* is based on knowledge about human
learning and development.
* provides for the three phases of the
change process: initiation, implementation, and institutionalization.
* bases priorities on a careful analysis of
disaggregated student data regarding goals for student learning.
* uses content that has proven value in
increasing student learning and development.
* provides a framework for integrating
innovations and relating those innovations to the mission of the
* requires an evaluation process that is
ongoing, includes multiple sources of information, and focus on all levels
of the organization.
* uses a variety of staff development
approaches to accomplish the goals o of improving instruction and student
* provides the follow up necessary to
* requires staff members to learn and apply
collaborative skills to conduct meetings, make shared decisions, solve
problems and work collegiality.
* requires knowledge and use of the stages
of group development to build effective, productive, collegial teams.
high school, middle level and elementary school staff development:
* increases administrators' and teachers'
understanding of how to provide school environments and instruction are
responsive to the developmental needs of students.
* facilitates the development and
implementation of school and classroom-based management which maximize
* addresses diversity by providing awareness
and training related to the knowledge, skills, and behaviors needed to
ensure that an equitable and quality education is provided to all students.
* enables educators to provide challenging,
developmentally-appropriate curricula that engage students in integrative
ways of thinking and learning.
* prepares teachers to use research-based
teaching strategies appropriate to their instructional objectives and their
* prepares educators to demonstrate high
expectations for student learning.
* facilitates staff collaboration with and
support of families for improving student performance.
* prepares teachers to use various types of
performance assessment in their classrooms.
Effective high school and middle level staff
* prepares educators to combine academic
student learning goals with service to the community.
* increases administrators' and teachers'
ability to provide guidance and advisement to adolescents.
Effective middle level staff development:
* increases staff knowledge and practice of
interdisciplinary team organization and instruction.----
- NATIONAL STAFF DEVELOPMENT
- PO Box 240, Oxford, OH
- Phone: 513.523.6029
What Recent National
Reports Have Said About Professional Development
1. From What Matters Most: Teaching for
America’s Future (1996), a report of the National Commission on
Teaching and America’s Future:
1. From What Matters Most: Teaching for
America’s Future (1996), a report of the National Commission on
Teaching and America’s Future:
"After a decade of reform, we have
finally learned in hindsight what should have been clear from the start:
Most schools and teachers cannot produce the kind of learning demanded by
the new reforms—not because they do not want to, but because they do not
know how, and the systems in which they work do not support them in doing
so. Most states and school districts have not yet put in place standards and
curriculum frameworks that provide clear signals about the academic learning
they value. They provide few opportunities for principals and teachers to
learn how to redesign their organizations and curriculum to be more
effective. And most current educators were prepared years ago in programs
that did not envision the kinds of challenges schools now confront and did
not have access to the knowledge about teaching and learning available
"Ultimately, the quality of teaching
depends not only on the qualifications of individuals who enter teaching,
but also on how schools structure teaching work and teachers’ learning
opportunities. Teachers who feel they are enabled to succeed with students
are more committed and effective than those who feel unsupported in their
learning and in their practice. Those who have access to new knowledge,
enriched professional roles, and ongoing collegial work feel more
efficacious in gaining the knowledge they need to teach their students well
and more positive about staying in the profession."
2. From Breaking Ranks: Changing an
American Institution (1996), a report of the National Association of
Secondary School Principals in partnership with the Carnegie Foundation
for the Advancement of Teaching.
"Educators cannot improve high schools
without the proper preparation to take on new roles and responsibilities.
Continuing inservice must have a valued place in their day-to-day
professional lives once they are on the job. . . Teachers, administrators,
and other educators who are part of a high school must regard their own
learning as integral to their professional role. This is especially so at a
time when roles will change in conjunction with restructuring. The school
district should help educators create a learning community in which
substantive professional development, linked primarily to content knowledge
and to instructional strategies, plays an ongoing part in their work."
3. From Teachers Take Charge of Their
Learning: Transforming Professional Development for Student Success
(1996), a report of the National Foundation for the Improvement of
"Changing times require that schools
become learning enterprises for teachers and for students. The way teachers
currently learn on the job was designed for teachers of an earlier time
before the public grew concerned with higher standards and improved
performance for all students…"
"Today’s teachers must take on new
roles within the school and be able to teach young people from diverse
backgrounds by drawing on a large repertoire of subject matter and teaching
"Because helping students achieve
requires the collaborative work of many adults in each school and community
who share responsibility for educating students, teachers must participate
in the collective growth and development of other teachers in the
"The report challenges principals and
other school administrators, working with teachers and existing resources,
to create workplaces that support teachers’ ongoing professional
development. It challenges educators and communities to find a way to
measure accurately what resources are currently devoted to professional
development and ensure that sufficient resources are available and well
spent. The report also challenges teachers and community leaders to create
time for teachers’ learning and partnerships with community institutions
that will nurture teachers’ growth and students’ success."
4. From Prisoners of Time (1994), a report
of the National Education Commission on Time and Learning:
"Teachers, principals, and
administrators need time for reform. They need time to come up to speed as
academic standards are overhauled, time to come to grips with the new
assessment systems, and time to make productive and effective use of greater
professional autonomy, one hallmark of reform in the 1990s. Adding school
reform to the list of things schools must accomplish, without recognizing
that time in the current calendar is a limited resource, trivializes the
effort. It sends a powerful message to teachers: don’t take this reform
business too seriously. Squeezes it in on your own time"
5. From Building Knowledge for a Nation of
Learners (1996), a report of the U.S. Department of Education:
"For teachers, learning must be
continuous. Most teachers are eager to improve their practice, but have too
few opportunities to do so. The nation’s school districts devote a meager
percentage of their resources to staff development. Estimates vary because
schools have different ways of tracking their professional development
expenditures, but the most generous estimates are from 3 to 5 percent, far
less than the estimated 8 to 10 percent of expenditures invested in staff
development by most corporations and many school systems in the
"This lack of emphasis on professional
development represents a lost opportunity, since evidence is mounting that
high quality, focused professional development can lead to improved student
achievement. Helping teachers acquire and practice effective strategies is
one of the best investments our nation can make in our children’s future
so long as the professional development activities are closely linked to the
district or school plan for strengthening teaching."
6. From Teachers and Technology: Making the
Connections (1995), a report of the U.S. Congress, Office of Technology
"Helping teachers may, in fact, be the
most important step to helping students…Technology can help teachers
improve instruction, change the teaching and learning process, fulfill daily
tasks, and engage in regular professional development…Teachers in a wide
range of settings are overcoming the barriers, blazing new trails, and
learning lessons from which others can benefit. Clearly, technology
implementation is a challenging task. Teachers need support if it is to
become a reality."
Guiding Principles for
A number of experts and organizations have
suggested that the most promising professional development programs or
policies are those that:
- Stimulate and support site-based
initiatives. Professional development is likely to have greater impact on
practice if it is closely linked to school initiatives to improve
- Support teacher initiatives as well as
school or district initiatives. These initiatives could promote the
professionalization of teaching and may be cost-effective ways to engage
more teachers in serious professional development activities.
- Are grounded in knowledge about teaching.
Good professional development should encompass expectations educators hold
for students, child-development theory, curriculum content and design,
instructional and assessment strategies for instilling higher-order
competencies, school culture and shared decision-making.
- Model constructivist teaching. Teachers
need opportunities to explore, question and debate in order to integrate
new ideas into their repertoires and their classroom practice.
- Offer intellectual, social and emotional
engagement with ideas, materials and colleagues. If teachers are to teach
for deep understanding, they must be intellectually engaged in their
disciplines and work regularly with others in their field.
- Demonstrate respect for teachers as
professionals and as adult learners. Professional development should draw
on the expertise of teachers and take differing degrees of teacher
experience into account.
- Provide for sufficient time and follow-up
support for teachers to master new content and strategies and to integrate
them into their practice.
- Are accessible and inclusive. Professional
development should be viewed as an integral part of teachers' work rather
than as a privilege granted to "favorites" by administrators.
Finding Time for
Watts and Castle outline five approaches that
have been used to create more time for professional development:
1. Using substitutes or releasing students.
Some schools are effectively using one morning or afternoon a week for
teacher development and other improvement activities. However this
approach provides only small blocks of time and is often resented by
2. Purchasing teacher time by using permanent
substitutes, retirees, or giving compensation for weekends or summer work.
This is expensive, sporadic, and some teachers will not participate on
weekends or during the summer.
3. Scheduling time by providing common
planning time for teachers working with the same children or teaching the
same grade on a regular basis. This is often done in schools using
instructional teams, but it could be done in many more schools if
assistance was provided with block scheduling.
4. Restructuring time by permanently altering
teaching responsibilities, the teaching schedule, school day, or school
calendar. This has serious implications for busing, union contracts,
facilities maintenance, state regulations, and budgets. It also means
changing public expectations--a reason few schools or districts have taken
5. Making better use of available time and
In contrast to K-12, postsecondary classes
are typically not expected to meet daily and faculty rarely teach more than
three classes a semester. In Japan and China, teachers spend only three to
four hours in the classroom and have the remainder of the day for
professional work. This option is often regarded as too costly, but the
costs could be minimized by:
- Substituting appropriate television
programming for regular instruction occasionally;
- Using adult volunteers or older students to
provide extracurricular activities for children;
- Using occasional large classes for special
topics, for exposure to arts, or presentations of outside
- Using independent study to let students
pursue projects on their own; and/or
- Involving more students in community