Principal investigators from Tennessee’s Project STAR and Wisconsin’s SAGE program make the case for Florida’s class size initiative
Tallahassee – National class size experts today urged Florida voters to support an historic opportunity to reduce class sizes by supporting Amendment 9 in the upcoming election. Amendment 9 was formally endorsed today by principal investigators from the nation’s leading class size reduction programs including Tennessee’s Project STAR and Wisconsin’s SAGE class size reduction program.
“After enduring months of scare tactics from politicians, Florida voters will now hear the truth about Amendment 9 from nationally recognized experts in the field of class size reduction,” said Senator Kendrick Meek, Chairman of Florida’s Coalition to Reduce Class Size. “This outpouring of support from those who know best how important it is to reduce class sizes should lay to rest any fears generated by politically motivated scare tactics designed to keep our children trapped in overcrowded classrooms.”
Principal investigators from Tennessee’s Project STAR and the Chair of Class Size Matters in New York today held a conference call with the media to explain why it is so important for Florida voters to support Amendment 9 on November 5th.
What the experts had to say about Amendment 9:
“The research is clear. Class size reduction is the one and only school reform measure that is guaranteed to improve student achievement any time, anywhere. In short, it works and money invested in it will be well spent,” said Helen Pate-Bain, a principal investigator for Tennessee’s Project STAR and consultant to Wisconsin’s SAGE class size reduction program.
“Class size reduction, particularly in the primary grades, increases student achievement, especially among children who are living in poverty,” said Alex Molnar, Professor and Director of the Education Policy Studies Laboratory at Arizona State University and leading researcher of Wisconsin’s SAGE class size reduction program. “The remarkable thing in Wisconsin is that schools have found a variety of ways to reduce class sizes effectively without incurring extensive capital expenses. Amendment 9 seems to me like the right reform at the right time in the right place.”
“One particularly impressive study, sponsored by the US Department of Education, recently looked at the achievement levels of students in 2,561 schools across the nation. After controlling for student background, the only objective factor that was found to be correlated with higher student success as measured by test scores was class size,” said Leonie Haimson, Chair of Class Size Matters in New York City. “Let me repeat that – the only factor; not school size, not teacher qualifications, nor any other variable that the researchers could identify. What was perhaps even more surprising is that these achievement gains were more strongly correlated with smaller classes in the upper rather than the lower grades.”
“Most of the criticism of small classes and research on small class size uses pupil-teacher ratio (PTR) data and estimates. Because PTR and class size are not the same, this information is suspect and not valid. Class size is an addition problem. You count the number of students in a teacher’s class. The PTR information is a division problem; you divide a total number of students by a total number of teachers, or a total number of all educators,” said C.M. Achilles, E.D.D., Principal Investigator of Project STAR and Professor of Education Administration at Eastern Michigan and Seton Hall Universities. “Crowded classes reduce a teacher’s ability to instruct students appropriately.”
“As a principal investigator of Project STAR, I endorse Amendment 9 and believe that it is affordable. In fact, Project STAR research showed several ways that small classes save money,” Pate-Bain added. “It is unfortunate that opponents of Amendment 9 have resorted to scare tactics and have misused data to fight this amendment. Amendment 9 is truly a ‘now or never’ opportunity for Florida voters. As an expert in the field of education and class size, a mother, and a grandmother, I urge Florida voters to reduce class sizes while they have the chance.”
“Amendment 9 represents an unprecedented opportunity for Floridians to invest in their future by implementing one of the few proven methods of improving student achievement,” said Haimson. “As study after study shows, smaller class size doesn’t just mean higher test scores – it also means lower drop out rates, reduced disciplinary referrals, more parental involvement, more students taking advanced courses, and more of them headed towards college. This moment in history offers a unique opportunity for the state of Florida to be on the cutting edge in terms of education reform. As Alan Krueger, now at Princeton and formerly chief economist of the U.S. Labor Department, has estimated, every dollar invested in smaller classes is likely to lead to $2 in benefits. Isn’t it time we do the right thing by our children, and, at the same time, through smarter spending, invest in our economic future as well?”