With many schools bursting at the seams with students, there are a lot of families who would rather see their child in a school with smaller class sizes. But is choosing a small school really the best decision?
In this post we will outline the small school benefits, and why enrolling your child in a small school is a great choice. We even have the research-backed answer to the question on the optimal class size.
Small School Benefit #1: More individualized attention for each student.
- The students in a small private school are able to receive more attention from each teacher.
- The student-to-teacher ratios in small schools allow the teachers to spend time getting to know each individual student.
- In turn, teachers can provide both additional challenges or scaffolding support for their students as needed.
- In a small school, there is no "one size fits all" approach, but rather an assessment of each unique student, and a deep understanding of the best way for each student to learn, and to succeed.
Small School Benefit #2: Research-backed improved academic performance.
- In an analysis of a variety of research studies, Glass and Smith (1978) found that classes with fewer than 20 students were associated with improved academic performance, with the strongest gains in primary grades.
- In 2000, the U. S. Department of Education did a study of over 2,500 schools and discovered, after controlling for student economic status, the only factor positively correlated with higher student test scores was class size.
- In this study, student achievement was strongly linked to smaller classes in upper grades. Finn (2005) found that four years of experience in small classes in Kindergarten through third grade improved student outcomes. Dynarski (2013) found that attending a school with small classes significantly increased the probability of a student earning a degree in a STEM (science, technology, engineering, or mathematics).
- Research has demonstrated that small classes improve academic engagement, student effort, student initiative and time on task. Basica (2010) discovered significantly increased interaction between students and teachers in small classes.
- Dee and West (2011) found that small class sizes improved student interest and motivation and a greater sense of belonging. Students in small classes were more likely to look forward to class, to believe the subject was useful, and to ask more questions and offer more answers in class. Small classes also led to improved quality of essays and writing assignments.
Small School Benefit #3: Can cover more lessons at a faster pace.
- Think about this: If your child is in a classroom with 28 other students, and just one or two of those students doesn't understand a concept, what happens? More than likely, the teacher will need to slow down the lessons, and teach to the students who are having the most difficult time grasping the topic. In addition, with larger class sizes, the teacher will need to spend a great deal of time on simple classroom management. He or she will need to take time to get the class settled, to keep the students from chatting, or even just from jumping out of their seats. This eats up valuable classroom lesson time.
- Now, picture your child in a classroom with only 10 or 12 students. The quieter and more easily controlled environment lends itself to a more dynamic classroom experience. The students are focused and ready to learn. They can ask questions that can be quickly and easily answered, allowing the teacher to move the lessons forward at a faster pace.
Small School Benefit #4: Curriculum flexibility.
- Teachers in a small school, with small classes, are able to tune in to the teaching methods and topics that resonate with their students. This allows them to get creative with their lesson planning.
- Are the students showing a lot of interest when discussing a specific idea? At a small private school, that teacher can take that idea and apply it to many different subject areas. Perhaps he or she was only planning to discuss this idea for one day, but upon seeing how much interest and enthusiasm it generated in the small class, this idea can be extended and applied elsewhere.
Small School Benefit #5: Each student is known.Who remembers sitting in the back of the classroom, slouching down, and knowing that you were never going to be called on? Well, if you went to a school with a lot of students, it was easy to get away with that type of behavior.
- A great benefit of a small school is that there is nowhere to hide. No student will "fall through the cracks" at a small private school.
- What's even better, is that the students in a small school, with small class sizes, are taught in a way that is most meaningful to them as individuals.
Small School Benefit #6: Lifelong relationships are established.
- Ok, great. So, you understand the academic benefits of a small school. But what about socially? There are some wonderful social aspects of life in a small school.
- Most small private schools feel more like a "home away from home" for their students. This family-like atmosphere provides a warm and nurturing environment, as opposed to a sterile and industrial one.
- The families who select a small school are often like-minded in their priorities, which means that get-togethers and events (both in and out of school) will be inclusive. (Remember, there is no place to hide in a small private school!)
- Lastly, the bonds formed at small private schools last a lifetime. It is not uncommon for people to stay in touch with their friends from elementary school or middle school after they've spent these formative years together in a small, tight-knit, and inclusive community.
It is important to remember the impact that the size of the school, and of each individual class, can have on the academic, social, and emotional growth and success of your child.