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Research Summary


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 children. (http://aspe.os.dhhs.gov/hsp/97trends/intro-web.htm)

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 achievement."

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 indicators. (www.ed.gov/offices/OUS/PES/whatsnew.html)

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, 53 (4).

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. (http://www.ed.gov)

IV. What are some effective strategies for promoting high quality early learning opportunities for children at risk of school failure?

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 Research (http://www.usc.edu./dept/education/cmmr/)

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 Institute (www.nbcdi.org/)

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) (erieps.ed.uiuc.edu/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 Services (www.os.dhhs.gov/)

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 help sessions.
  • 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 student assessment.
  • 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 program's goals.
Source: Extending 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 Learning Programs

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 after-school programs
  • How to integrate getting students ready for college early with after-school programs
  • How to integrate teacher training into an after-school program
  • How to integrate technology into an after-school program
  • How to integrate parent and community involvement into after-school programs

Keeping Schools Open as Community Learning Centers


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:

  • Estimate typical costs for 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 staff.
  • Develop a Community Learning Center budget for establishing and operating a program.
  • 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 necessary changes.

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 student success.

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 Recommendations
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.

Implementing Looping
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.

Block Scheduling
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 participate.

Saturday School: Raising Hispanic Academic Achievement
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

Year-Round Education. 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. (1995)

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 Learning Programs
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.

After School.Gov
Visit http://www.afterschool.gov 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 infrastructure.



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 within Washington?

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 levels.

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 student-teacher ratio.

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 class sizes?

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 more classes.

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 & Innovation www.uwm.edu/Dept/CERAI/sage.html

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 is http://www.dpi.state.wi.us/dpi/oea/sage/.


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 Experience.
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 class sizes.
(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 National Ranking)

Students Per Teacher

Data from the Department of Education National Center for Education Statistics


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 improvement.

* 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 organization.

* 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 success.

* provides the follow up necessary to ensure improvement.

* 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.

Content. Effective 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 student learning.

* 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 students.

* 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 development:

* 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.----

PO Box 240, Oxford, OH 45056
Phone: 513.523.6029 Email: nsdcoffice@aol.com

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 today."

"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 Education:

"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 skills..."

"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 school."

"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 country."

"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 Assessment:

"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 Professional Development

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 practice.
  • 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 Professional Development

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 parents.

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 this approach.

5. Making better use of available time and staff.

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 "experts";
  • Using independent study to let students pursue projects on their own; and/or
  • Involving more students in community service activities.

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