Oversized classrooms and their negative impact on students

Often, classroom size can impact the learning environment for many students.

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Often, classroom size can impact the learning environment for many students.

Allie Schein and Anna Baustert

Oklahoma has a large class size problem. Larger classes are affecting the learning environment for students all over the state. There is a saying in education- “a perfect class size is 15-24 students, anything else is just an audience.” Oversized classrooms can affect a student’s learning and comprehension of a subject because the teacher doesn’t have the time or resources to connect and make sure each student understands the content. 

 This problem could be caused by a multitude of situations, including district budgets and school boundaries. The effects can lead to several setbacks for the students in these oversized classrooms.  

A small budget could limit the district’s ability to hire more teachers or expand the size of the school. 

Teachers are forced to teach large classes or teach subjects they are not equipped to teach. For example, in the Edmond Public School district (EPS), many classes harbor almost 40 students. Usually, core subjects are most affected by the problem. Many teachers in the district are beginning to instruct both on-level and Advanced Placement (AP) classes. 

 Calling for smaller class sizes has been strongly supported by teachers for many years. A national survey of 50,000 Americans found that reducing class sizes was considered the best way to reform schools. However, when school budgets are tight, class sizes keep growing. Even if there is an adequate number of teachers, classrooms become crowded because there isn’t enough room for all the students.

Location can also have an impact. In some suburban areas, parents may have the ability to relocate between districts. For example, many parents decided to live in Edmond for the good schools, but this caused overcrowding in classrooms. 

Edmond schools are more fortunate than others in Oklahoma when it comes to funding for education. Classrooms receive bond money to help purchase materials and pay for construction, but cannot be used for the hiring of teachers. 

In a study conducted by Project STAR (Tennessee Study) from 1985 to 1989, 11,600 Tennessee students from kindergarten to third grade were randomly assigned to three different classes. The classes were split up based on class size. The first had 13–17 students, the second class had 22–25 students and the third class had over 25 students. 

Results from the study showed that the average student assigned to the smallest class had a reading score about eight percent higher than students in the medium-sized class. The smaller class students also averaged a nine percent higher math score, showing that larger class size does negatively impact how students learn and process information. 

Another study by Karen Akerhielm, a graduate of Yale’s Economics Ph.D. program, found that a ten student reduction in class sizes begets an approximately five percent improvement in science and history test scores. 

In April of 2018, many Oklahomans remember the teacher walkout, where teachers, students and parents advocated for a larger budget for education. The fight for education didn’t end there. In recent budget changes, Oklahoma governor Kevin Stitt wouldn’t be giving Oklahoma schools the budget they need, only allocating an additional $25-75 million. If we hope to change the crowded classrooms, advocating for greater representation in the budget will reach that goal. 

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