Cash-strapped school districts and states are backing away from reductions in class size, a reform touted as a magic bullet to improve failing public schools. Class sizes in many districts are swelling - particularly in middle and high schools - and initiatives aimed at primary grades are being rolled back. Experts say the shift is a result of severe budget cuts and mixed findings on whether smaller classes actually boost learning. At the state level, Massachusetts is expected to kill its $18 million program to limit class size in Grades K-3 in low-income schools. Washington State recently slashed funding for smaller classes in primarily Grades K-4 by $24.5 million. Large districts in Oregon and Utah are boosting maximum class sizes. Similarly, in Tennessee, tight budgets are expected to push class sizes up in all grades. And in Florida, a proposed ballot initiative to constitutionally limit class sizes is running into fierce opposition. Class-size reduction gained momentum with a 1980s study in Tennessee, which found that students learn best in classes of 13 to 17, particularly in primary grades. It also found that low-income and minority students reap the greatest gains. A Wisconsin study had similar results. More than 20 states have launched class-size initiatives.

Originally published in the Los Angeles Times
"Class sizes grow as states confront budget woes"
The Christian Science Monitor, May 21, 2002