December 7th, 2011
06:25 AM ET

Does class size matter?

Editor’s note: This is Part 2 of a two-part series on overcrowding and undercrowding in schools. You can see Part 1 here.

By Rose Arce, CNN

Weybridge, Vermont (CNN) – The sun climbs the steely gray sky, and tiny Weybridge Elementary lights up to greet its young.

At Weybridge, four full-time teachers work with just 52 students.

Black and white cows that look like Oreo cookies sometimes give birth in the playground. The closest neighbor is a cemetery shadowed by towering maple trees.

“We like having small schools and a sense of community in a bucolic setting, but it comes at a great cost when birth rates are falling, and the cost per pupil and property taxes keep rising,” said Spencer Putnam, who runs the town meetings that decide most things in the 250-year-old town, population 800. Just a single child entered Weybridge’s kindergarten this year, and a quarter of the 52 students will graduate from this school in the spring. There just aren’t enough darn kids.

Vermont has the highest per pupil spending in the nation at $15,000, yet Weybridge spends even more than that, an eye-popping $18,000 per pupil. The national average is just under $10,000.

The cost is high because, while the number of kids at Weybridge fell by nearly half in the past six years, the school district still has to run the same size building and pay enough teachers to staff all the educational requirements.

While some U.S. schools struggle with overcrowding, Weybridge reflects a crisis facing all of Vermont. Let’s call it “under-crowding,” which is what happens when a state suffers from a declining birth rate and an exodus of young people looking for better job opportunities and lower taxes. There are not enough kids in some schools to fill all the seats, form sports teams and marching bands or give the range of ideas and diversity some teachers like in a vibrant classroom. There are so few students in some parts that their public schools are filling empty seats with paying students from China.

Dylan, 5, is the lone kindergartener at Weybridge Elementary, a towheaded little thing with probing blue eyes. His parents, Tiffany and Thaddeus, don’t want us to use the family last name because it’s pretty easy to single out any one kid in a town so small.

Dylan shares a classroom with nine kids from upper grades so his teachers have a critical mass. His classmates include his 7-year-old sister, Maddie. The 10 children in kindergarten through second grade have a full-time teacher, an assistant teacher, teachers for art, music and physical education, a librarian for story time and cooks who bake bread and serve up local produce.

“Six years ago, I had a kindergarten class of 24,” says Joy Dobson, Dylan’s teacher. “It’s challenging with so few children because the range of ideas is not as broad. When you ask a question, the life experiences are limited in a small group so one answer doesn’t naturally lead to more questions and a thought process that grows. On the other hand, every child gets listened to and has room for his voice to grow and his or her confidence to develop.”

Dobson has the luxury of getting to know each student so well that she can tell you exactly what words and numbers they have mastered at any given time.

“This is a luxury in some ways,” she says. “Though you don’t want it to get too small.”

She has to plan classes so her teaching doesn’t fly over the heads of the kindergarteners but still challenges the second-graders, who she rewards with their own desks to affirm they’ve reached a higher level.

Maddie and Dylan’s parents enjoy seeing their children in the same small setting where they were educated. They say they are thrilled by how well the teachers challenge them at their own level. To augment the limited social setting, the children have playdates and afterschool activities with peers in other communities. Maddie says she prefers her small classroom, though she sometimes wishes she could escape seeing her little brother at both home and school.

“I love everything about my small school. It’s quiet and it’s fun and the teachers are fun, and I could name every kid in the school, though I’d have to think about it a little,” she said.

Dobson asked Dylan whether he would like to have another kindergartener in his class. “Yes, because it would be more fun,” he said.
“What fun would you have?” she asked him.

Dylan points to the empty chairs around his table one by one. “I’d have a kindergartener here and one kindergartener here and one kindergartner here. One, two, three kindergarteners,” he says surrounding himself with imaginary classmates.

Dobson says Dylan is raising another challenge of such small schools.

“When you have so few kids your age to choose from, you sometimes can’t find that one true friend, that kid who is just like you, until you move up to middle or high school where you have more choices of people,” she said, before letting Dylan out to the playground where he held his own in soccer with much larger boys.

Though Weybridge employs part-time teachers and uses every empty space to offer a range of subjects, the school has so few students that they have an empty classroom for the first time ever. The Addison Central Supervisory Union, which includes Weybridge lower and upper schools, is in one of the school districts in Vermont now having community discussions on how to solve the problems created by a declining school population.

The state required the communities to discuss solutions after they resisted attempts to consolidate small schools into neighboring school districts.

“I do think that, academically, if the classes are too small, and if you consider that learning is social, then both socially and academically the capacity to learn can be compromised if you don’t have enough children,” said principal Cristina Johnson. “But what we have here is a wonderful situation where individuality is celebrated and individual needs are met, where a community forms around its children and every child can voice their thoughts and have them heard.”

Her solution to declining enrollment has been to combine grades, form partnerships with local Middlebury College, bring in speakers, go on field trips and capitalize on the benefits of an intimate learning environment.

Johnson believes the school is the heart of the community and much would be lost if it just went away. The building is the only place where the town congregates, whether for school events or community meetings. It is the town’s common experience, the glue that binds.

“If we lose this school, we really lose our sense of community as well,” she said.

Consequently, when families gathered for the past of six months of community conversations, they resolved to form working groups to address declining enrollments and rising costs so they can keep their tiny school open. The state set a deadline for October 2012 for communities to offer potential solutions, and Weybridge hopes that by having some solutions already in place so they can be ahead of the game.

But Weybridge residents at the last meeting faced graphics that showed enrollment declining every year as tax rates rose steadily and costs per pupil climbed dramatically. One man asked why they hadn’t just allowed the schools to consolidate years ago and complained about high taxes. Another woman made the crowd laugh when she rebutted that they could “shoot all the kids” and still wouldn’t solve the problem because they are required to provide services from K to 12.

There was a big vanilla cake with a drawing of the town square, and the children sang songs about the quaintness of Vermont. An art display punctuated the walls, and gallons of fresh milk and cider were passed around as children played in the halls and library. The turnout was called “big,” and maybe 60 people were in the room.

Vermont’s government traditionally rules by consensus, so people were asked to put dot stickers on posters outlining problems to show which they thought were the most pressing. Perhaps not surprisingly, the posters with the most dots talked about addressing financial issues.

Even so, the crowd dug into the cake, caught up on town gossip and pledged once again that no cost was too high to keep Weybridge and its schools a small-town experience.

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Filed under: Elementary school • High school • Issues • Policy • Practice
soundoff (215 Responses)
  1. Weybridge Kid

    I also would like to add that closing the school down wouldn't lower costs very much. We then would have to bus students to another school, and pay tuition to that school. We then are left with a building that has to be maintained, that isn't totally payed for. Really, it wouldn't cost us any less at all. A good portion of the budget right now, is for the tuition of middle and high school students to their schools, which are in a nearby town. (8 schools feed into that school)

    December 13, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
  2. L

    I don't think there is a right or wrong answer. A small population like that is not going to bring in very much money to support the schools and with so few kids – it will cost more. If the town is that rural, there solution may be to shut down the school and "bus" the kids elsewhere (as some have suggested). But I think that could be damaging to the children if the comute time is too long.

    December 13, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
  3. Weybridge Kid

    I would like post as a response to some of the Comments for closing the School. I live in Weybridge, and have gone through the school, and currently I'm in High school. I've attended all the meeting about what to do with the school, and really we haven't reached anything close to a conclusion. We do currently have a low member of students, but from the old timers that have been around for a while, they say the population always fluctuates, and comes in waves. There are a few more children that have been born of late, and haven't yet gotten to the school system. They will be boosting the enrollment slightly, not a huge amount. The problem with consolidating schools are here, is that they are so far away. I used to ride the bus for an hour from Elementary school, each way, sometimes more. In all, I would easily spend 2-3 hours on a bus per day. If we consolidated, we would be going an even farther distance, and students could easily be riding for 3-4 hours a day. That's a long time for Elementary aged students. But, it's still a possibility. Weybridge hasn't reached any conclusions yet, and there are many on the table. The school is also the community center. Residents are tightly knit together, and without the school, the community would literally fall apart. I would tend to say, that that would be one of the worst things for the school to do, and from what I’ve heard the other Weybridge residents would tend to agree.

    December 12, 2011 at 10:36 am |
  4. billy

    I didn't see in the article or video but I wonder how many kids will be entering Kindergarten this year and how long until they have a year with no students entering at all. Also how much will their costs go up after this year from 18,000 when a quarter of their students leave. The schools should just close down and consolidate.

    December 11, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
    • Weybridge Kid

      Not a huge number of students are coming in, but I beleive a few will be. The school budget is decreasing (not official yet), but by a pretty decent percent, so costs are going down.

      December 12, 2011 at 10:38 am |
  5. gary

    I'm retired teacher. Of course class size matters. depending on age group and subject, too few or too many can kill a class. For elem, about 18 is optimal. Middle school, maybe 20 -24.

    December 11, 2011 at 7:49 am |
  6. Susan

    This district should be paying teachers per-pupil, instead of annual salary. This is ridiculous. Additionally, long before public schools, there were one-room school houses. Mixed grades works. To top it all off, with the large flux of home-schooling parents just about everywhere, why is this district paying all this for one pupil in Kindergarten???

    December 11, 2011 at 3:12 am |
  7. Lety

    Does class size matter? this is one of those questions that doesn't have a perfect answer.

    Personally, when I taught in a regular monolingual classroom yes class size mattered. Now that I teach bilingual students classroom size doesn't really matter. I would take 50 bilingual students in one classroom over 20 regular students any time of the day. Culture makes a huge difference!

    December 11, 2011 at 2:26 am |
  8. Remford

    Yet one more example of enacting into law what people can't afford.

    December 11, 2011 at 2:10 am |
  9. wackoae

    Class size DOES NOT MATTER. What matter is the quality of the teacher and RESPONSIBLE PARENTS.

    The problem with today's education is NOT in the school ... it is at home. Parents think that their kids are little saints that don't tell them lies, do their homework on time and study before they start playing video games. Then they accuse the teacher of having some hate for their kids when they get bad grades ..... even when the kid was playing XBox the night before and didn't even pickup a book to study.

    So, NO class size is irrelevant ..... what is relevant is the right discipline at home.

    December 11, 2011 at 1:50 am |
    • Emily

      Class size isn't completely irrelevant. I agree that, alone, managing class sizes cannot solve all of the issues; however, teachers have a difficult time reaching all of the students on individual levels and teaching to their individual learning styles if the class size is too large.

      December 11, 2011 at 2:18 am |
  10. BldrRepublican

    This is another example of ignoring the facts staring you right in the face. If you read the story closely enough, you'll discern that the liberal population of Vermont demanded that, regardless of class or school size, a "core set" of subjects WILL be presented to the students.

    This is why you have education costs of $18,000 / kid / yr with no solution on the horizon, except engaging in a lot of "feel good" self-soothing mambo-jambo, which we all know is based in fantasy.

    December 11, 2011 at 1:25 am |
    • VT ex-Pat

      Vermont has only tended toward the democratic side of the spectrum in the last 20 years or so. Look at the voting history at the bottom of the link. If you spend time in any of these smaller towns, you will see that they are very tight knit communities that want to take care of themselves and are generally very capable of doing so without help or oversight from the government. Most "real" Vermonters I know (by "real", I mean families who have been established in the state for at least the previous 2 generation) are actually much more conservative and tend towards small government and want less government oversight/interference both in state government and in the federal government. The more "liberal" element is relatively new to the state and is due in large part to the in-flux of new residents from other areas of New England and the country. I would also believe that the reputation of the University of Vermont as being a "hippie" college does not help the stereotype of the "liberal hippie Vermonter", but you cannot generalize an entire state by looking at its college student population.

      However, I would like to say that I see no problem in requiring a core subject matter for all students in the state. As a product of such a school system, the core subjects were math, science, english/literature, and social studies/geography/history. Core requirements are not superfluous, they are what are necessary to be a well rounded, well educated, informed member of society. There is no reason that a child should receive less of an education simply because he or she grows up in a town with only 800 residents.

      December 14, 2011 at 9:27 am |
  11. Eddie

    Moving away to find lower taxes? I really don't think people do that. Another CNN work of fiction.

    December 11, 2011 at 1:16 am |
    • Jack Lee

      You are so wrong ! I packed my bags and left California and moved to Florida due to High Taxes and liberal Policy. Most of my friends and family moved to Texas !A lot of people here in Florida are from Vermont and left due to taxes. Look at the 2010 census the writing is on the wall people fleeing Blue states to live in solid Republican controlled states .California for the first time in history lost population and didn't gain a electoral vote or a congressional seat. Texas gained 4 !

      December 11, 2011 at 2:38 am |
      • Tom

        I find that you often get what you pay for. I live in Florida and can't *wait* to get back up North where I can pay my taxes and live in a civilized state.

        December 11, 2011 at 8:27 pm |
  12. StopMakingExcuses

    This class size argument is just ANOTHER EXCUSE for failed curriculums. We need to go back to the old style teaching... and focus on READING, WRITING, and ARITHMETIC. These new fangled 'methods' are failed.. and the administrations always have the excuse that ithe kids are not succeeding because of class size. What a COP OUT! They refuse to acknowledge that these 'new fangled methods' are not working! I find it ridiculous that one commenter was advocating for a max class size of 12-15... it must be a member of the teachers union.... We need to get back to teaching basics... and having the teacher instill fear into the children that if they don't pay attention or don't do their homework that there will be severe consequences... It worked for students up to the 70's ... and it will work again! What we are doing now CLEARLY isn't working even though we are throwing more money than ever at the problem.

    December 11, 2011 at 1:15 am |
  13. Will S

    Well, the bottom line is that I feel bad for "Dylan", the 5 year old. He is clearly lonely and would undoubtedly benefit from a few other kids his age around. He even looks sad in the picture/video. At his age he's definitely missing out on play and socialization.

    December 11, 2011 at 1:04 am |
  14. Peg - Az

    It has been my experience when working in classrooms that it is better to have two teachers with 40 kids in a classroom, than one teacher with 20. The reason for this is that there are always kids who will need special attention either for instruction or behavior during the day and it is much easier if one person can handle mini-management issues and tutoring assistance while the other keeps an eye on the big picture and the grand plan or scheme for the day. Each teacher can also then trade off performing these duties and perhaps be in charge for 1/2 of the lesson plans. The problem is that even in a small classroom one teacher simply often can't juggle enough, even if she is an expert at planning and classroom management. Having someone who can tutor and manage small issues is critical. Delegating specific responsibilities always improves results, and anytime each person focuses on fewer tasks, this improves efficiencies and the amount that can be accomplished.

    December 11, 2011 at 12:56 am |
  15. lebowski1776

    We need more tools to move schools Online. With online curriculum, it's still cheaper to buy every kid in America an ipad, than to maintain that much infrastructure for schools. To ease the process, begin consolidating schools and libraries into one place of 'learning'. This would also allow teachers to work from home with much more flexible hours as online mentors/tutors. One teacher could handle more students with less work.

    December 11, 2011 at 12:49 am |
    • Will S

      ...and who is at home with the kids? Many families have two working parents who can barely make ends meet. Others have only one parent. I've taught online college courses and classroom courses from lab to lecture. My perception has been that online courses are easy money for the university but a rip-off for the students (assuming they are trying to learn something and not just earn credits). Face time with educators is essential IMO.

      December 11, 2011 at 12:54 am |
    • Angela

      And who would watch the kids while they're at home learning online? Parents would have to quit their jobs, something not possible for single parents, not possible for most families with 2 parents. What about families with many children? They may not have the space for every child to have their own space to be on a computer for school for hours a day. Many rural areas still do not have access to reliable, fast internet. Many families can not afford computers and internet for their homes.

      December 11, 2011 at 1:02 am |
  16. Madz

    Read Jonathan Kozol's work and you will never askk yourself ever again: Does class size matter?

    December 11, 2011 at 12:42 am |
  17. Flamespeak

    You can throw ridiculous sums of money in education, you can have 1 teacher for every 3 students, and the absolute best equipment and books available for students, on the whole I would say the results will still produce the same level of education as the current system because instead of teaching children to learn knowledge and apply it, we teach them to memorize facts for a test then they forget those facts and formulas to learn new ones for the next test. Keep Math down the most basic form of alegebra, make Literature classes more open to works from the student's choices and use harsh critque of their written materials to better enforce the concept of proper grammar, sentence stucture, and flow.

    Standardized tests that force the memorization of facts that are trivial outside the classroom for the vast majority of people is producing generations of people who are shallow oceans of knowledge with no real depth in any field while also lacking a firm grasp of the fundamentals to help them advance in daily activities outside of school. Oh, and get rid of 'No Child Left Behind'. If a child needs to be held back due to failure to understand the material or lack of giving a crap about the subject matter, then hold them back. Passing the slow/lazy to keep funding is a terrible thing and it pretty much guarntees that students are not being challenged for fear of them doing poorly and a school being denied funds.

    December 11, 2011 at 12:35 am |
    • teacher

      You do so desperately need to update yourself on the content and design of current standardized testing. Years ago it focused on "memorized facts," but today's testing is more geared toward reasoning and higher ordered thinking.

      December 11, 2011 at 12:53 am |
  18. Dushyant Desai

    Class size does not matter.We are getting beaten by kids from India,China,Bangladesh where the class size sometimes is 50.What we really need is desire and hunger both from kids as well as parents to do well.And you need incentives-if you do not get meaningful and marketable education,you will be screwed rest of the life.We measure good school by percentage of kids going to college but what are they majoring in?African studies?Arabic studies?Anthropology?Political Science?What kind of job they can find today's economy?

    December 11, 2011 at 12:25 am |
    • Silence

      Class size does matter in the America, because we do not have Indian culture. American children are much harder to educate. Indian parents don't second guess the teachers on every discipline issue. In fact, there are very few discipline issues. A child use profanity toward a teacher with seven witnesses and the the parent will still believe their child or ask what the teacher did to provoke the child.
      America tries to educate all students. Many other countries including India do not educate everyone. Class size matters. Spend a couple days in a public school in a poor or working class neighborhood in America. In fact, spend a couple of months. Your ideas will change. I wish we could force the legislators who fund schools and make law to spend a couple of months in them. They would have a better idea how their legislation affects them. Class size really does matter.

      December 11, 2011 at 12:42 am |
      • Bert

        Well said. Watch some videos of schools in China, they look like military academies. It is also an excellent point that the US tries to educate everyone. Special education doesn't even exist in many well developed countries. I went to an international education presentation that my college offered where students who were educated in other countries spoke and then answered questions. China, Russia, Iraq and one or two other countries were represented. I asked about special education in their schools and specifically ADHD and how it effected their classroom. None of them even knew what I was talking about with ADHD and several on the panel said that the students with special needs all attended a special school and they never saw them. Many of these countries that are "beating" the US only test certain students, the US requires that all there students be tested.

        I also question the whole concept of the other countries beating the US. Beating us in what? I am not saying the US education system is perfect, because there are a lot of things that can be fixed. I do think the US is still high on the list of countries in producing creative thinkers.

        December 11, 2011 at 1:33 am |
  19. Miriam

    I went to elementary school at the height of the baby boom. 35-40 kids in all my classes in elementary school. There were often not enough desks or books for the first couple of weeks. Because I was already reading, my teachers often sent me to the library for half the day which suited me fine until I'd read all the books by fourth grade. Lots of my classmates were not so smart and struggled because there simply was not enough individual teacher time.

    December 10, 2011 at 11:27 pm |
    • Costica

      Size matter !!

      December 11, 2011 at 12:06 am |
    • Kevin H

      Many things impact performance in the classroom. But let's ask ourselves a major question. The class size at some of the leading nation's leading private schools is 15. Magnet schools and other special schools limit class sizes to 15 – 20. So the reason we're having this question is because if 12 is the maximum class size allowed and 30 is the normal class size that means we need 30-18=12 or 18 fewer kids per class. We're more than 18 over the number private schools in THIS country allow because the number of teachers and size of schools would grow considerably. In an elementary school of 900 that means 75 teachers – that's 45 MORE teachers than in a classroom of 30. Salaries for 30 teachers at 35,000 per year is $1,225,000. Forty-five teachers would cost $1,575,000 per year. Naturally not all teachers make $35,000 per year. The total for the 75 teachers would be $2,800,000.00. Those dollars add up in larger districts. If we want to understand why our schools are failing – ONE of the many answers to our troubles is something very simple: dollars for salaries.

      December 11, 2011 at 12:30 am |
      • Silence

        Sorry but in our town, 39-40 is the norm.

        December 11, 2011 at 12:45 am |
  20. Mike

    I'm a teacher in Vermont that lives 35 minutes out of Weybridge. Our graduating class decreased by almost 50% over 3 years. Kids are leaving the state, or moving to Burlington. Mostly the former.

    December 10, 2011 at 11:26 pm |
  21. Joe

    Tiffany and Thaddeus didn't give their last name so as not single out their son Dylan, in a town of 800.

    I'm sure their anonymity will remain secure because there probably are at least 50 other couples named Tiffany and Thaddeus that have a kindergartener named Dylan.

    December 10, 2011 at 11:22 pm |
    • Mary

      Is that everything you got out of this article

      December 11, 2011 at 12:22 am |
  22. Cary L. Tyler

    Class size is definitely an issue, but the biggest problem is having a large class size AND students who are not at grade level. If students (especially at the high school level) have at least similar educational abilities and also are in a school that has a sound and equitable disciplinary system, there is a much better chance of educating them in a crowded environment. However, one quick way to save some money: cut state mandated testing.

    December 10, 2011 at 11:22 pm |
  23. CoachHouser

    "in study after study of student success on standardized tests, the biggest factor by far - more than the quality of the instruction or the school - is the social class of the parents and the community in which they live, says University of Arizona education professor David Berliner."

    December 10, 2011 at 11:08 pm |
    • CoachHouser

      CNN posted this Aug 8, 2011. Now, it's class size. Next.... the color of the walls? The age of the teacher? After a few more hundred years, someone will figure out how kids learn the best. I think CNN had it right on on Aug 8. ..... but they can keep on looking. Someone will read it. I'm not.

      December 10, 2011 at 11:10 pm |
    • NellieG

      This sounds about right. Interested parents with a livable wage for a stable home life

      December 10, 2011 at 11:25 pm |
  24. chris

    i don't believe it is and issue. i attend a school where the average class size is around about 40-50 kids and we have some of the highest test scores in california

    December 10, 2011 at 11:07 pm |
    • Lari

      Apparently your "high scoring" school system doesn't include using capitalization.

      December 11, 2011 at 12:56 am |
      • Mel

        Apparently you are very good at missing the point of someone's comment.

        December 11, 2011 at 1:51 am |
  25. BobMD

    So Vermont keeps raising taxes to socialist/communist levels, and wonders why everybody's fleeing their state and there are no kids left to fill their schools? Well, duhhh....

    December 10, 2011 at 11:05 pm |
    • Will S

      Vermont population 2010: 625,741
      Vermont population 2000: 608,827

      Looks like an increase to me.

      Quit watching Fox and you might learn something.

      December 10, 2011 at 11:09 pm |
      • Eric

        A whopping 2.7% increase over a decade. Far below the country birth average.

        That is evidence of others leaving.

        December 10, 2011 at 11:35 pm |
      • Will S

        Or, as you know since you clearly took a close look at the 2000 and 2010 census tables for Vermont at American FactFinder (, it could be a factor of old people dying/moving to warmer climates. Vermont may not be growing as quickly as other states (because some people actually are leaving), but it is not "aging" (that is, being abandoned by young people) or losing population (suffering a net loss). An increase in population is not a *decrease*, no matter how much you try to spin it.

        December 10, 2011 at 11:48 pm |
      • Littleone

        No Eric, that's evidence of a declining birth rate. Typically, the better educated a populace is, the less kids they have. We have the same problem here in South Korea, and taxes are very low here.

        December 10, 2011 at 11:57 pm |
    • Flatlander

      unempoyment rate in burlington 3.6% low crime rate, people say hi and acknowledge you, housing prices declined very little compared with the rest of the country, i ski and mt. bike in beautiful locations quite often.. hmm yes don't come here its bad 🙂

      December 10, 2011 at 11:21 pm |
    • Brandon

      Vermont also has one of the highest standards of living in the US, along w/ one of the lowest crime rates. Funny how that works huh?

      December 10, 2011 at 11:37 pm |
  26. rr

    We need homeschooling, less federal government control and give the parents more control. We need real change in 2012. Vote Davis for congress.Join our campaign at :

    December 10, 2011 at 10:58 pm |
  27. sawadee2000

    For the past six years I have been teaching English in Lampang Thailand. Most classes in Thailand, from Kindergarten through High School have 40 students or more. Needless to say it is impossible to give students any individual attention. This year I am teaching at a private school where I have only 12 students per class. What a difference this has made. I have been able to devote my time to the each and every student. The results have been amazing. Shy students who would have languished in a large classroom are learning more than I would have thought possible, and are speaking with confidence.

    December 10, 2011 at 10:56 pm |
  28. tafugate

    any educator asking the question needs to immediately tender their resignation. somebody had the brilliant idea we'd build megaschools to save money. not sure what they were smoking. now they're wondering why 40 kids in a classroom aren't getting the individual attention they need. such an excruciatingly simple concept, yet none of the powers that be making the decisions seem to have the ability to grasp the obvious.

    December 10, 2011 at 10:54 pm |
  29. Raven

    omg – grow up. I am 57 and from a military town. it is not fiscally sound to build new schools when some of the students might not be there the next year. grade school – i was transfered one year; junior high – we were split in shifts; high school -same. we could not ride the bus unless we lived 2 miles and there was no mini-van convention at the schools. as for the class size – studies have shown that unless you maintain a size of less than 10 students there is no difference. there was an average of 20-25 students in my classes each year.
    As a former school board member, message – to the teachers – you do make good money – I have seen the contracts. stop your whining or find another job. Administrators – start doing your job and stop making the teachers deal with disruptive students. Parents – stop coddling your kids.

    December 10, 2011 at 10:52 pm |
    • Raven

      Oh – I neglected to say that the students in my home town did great.

      December 10, 2011 at 10:53 pm |
    • Joe

      And you walked to school in the blinding snow each day, uphill – both ways.

      December 10, 2011 at 11:25 pm |
      • NellieG

        I guess you were lucky and didn't have to, some of us did actually walk to school, every day in winter.

        December 10, 2011 at 11:27 pm |
    • dtm311

      Raven, I would like to know the source of these "studies". I am not buying it.

      December 10, 2011 at 11:50 pm |
    • dtm311

      Just a few minutes ago, that was "15-20" students per class. All of your grand standing says nothing to me. I want facts that you can back up your argument with. So, again I will ask about the source of these "studies".

      December 10, 2011 at 11:57 pm |
      • Will S

        I did a quick Google Scholar review and the first three relevant studies I skimmed all reported (when you boil it down) that smaller class sizes facilitate learning : The Tennessee study of class size in the early school grades (Mosteller, 1995). Answers and Questions About Class Size: A Statewide Experiment (Finn, 1990). The effects of class size on student achievement: New evidence from population variation (Hoxby, 2000). I'm waiting for real evidence to the contrary myself. Peer-reviewed scientific findings. Nothing from the Heritage Foundation's website, or a Fox blog.

        December 11, 2011 at 12:00 am |
  30. zoundsman

    Of course size matters! It's more important in some classes if the teacher wants to survey what the kids are doing
    by walking around (and the class is large), no way will they be able to stop and help enough of them. One or two
    kids will take advantage of the situation-it affects the rest. The bigger the class, the more will be affected.

    December 10, 2011 at 10:52 pm |
    • NellieG

      The teachers in my classes didn't have a problem with 34+ children and no assistant. If you needed help, you simply raised your hand.

      December 10, 2011 at 10:58 pm |
      • Will S

        This assumes, of course, that in your fantasy world only one child at a time raises their hand.

        December 10, 2011 at 11:02 pm |
    • NellieG

      I forgot to all that if that many children need help that the teacher can't help them all, then the teacher didn't teach it very well in the first place. Kids needing help should be the exception not the rule.

      December 10, 2011 at 11:05 pm |
      • Will S

        Half of kids are below average and will probably need some extra help.

        December 10, 2011 at 11:07 pm |
      • NellieG

        and why are they below average? What failed them?

        December 10, 2011 at 11:21 pm |
      • KHale

        It is obvious that you have never been a teacher. No matter how well someone teaches, there will ALWAYS be students who don't get it the first time and sometimes not even the tenth time. Every child is different and may not be developmentally ready to fully understand what it is I am teaching them. Some of the math concepts I am required to teach my students are too abstract for their age level. I am a damn good teacher, but not even the best teacher can be everything to every student at every minute of the day.

        December 10, 2011 at 11:25 pm |
      • NellieG

        KHale, math concepts, too abstract for them? Whatever happened to 1 + 1 = 2 and memorizing the multiplication tables. Maybe concepts are the problem. No I am not a teacher, I was just a student.

        December 10, 2011 at 11:31 pm |
      • Will S

        Well, I would say, for starters, their genes. Not the ones you wear.

        December 10, 2011 at 11:37 pm |
    • zoundsman

      That depends on your style, Nellie. I don't wait if they're all engaged in an essay. For sure, they'll be several
      that will need to be given direction. Also, this article doesn't factor in the wide variety of schools in different socio- economic districts. If you're lucky, you'll have less discipline problems. Size does matter, especially with class control.

      December 10, 2011 at 11:07 pm |
      • NellieG

        Class control – I see some of the high school students and it makes you wonder. This again gets back to the parents...with out their backing and interest our education system will always flounder.

        December 10, 2011 at 11:34 pm |
  31. Raven

    OMG. our society has gotten so wimpy. Time to grow up and realize we can't afford to everything. I am 57 and grew up in a military town. The student population would flux up or down depending on the numbers of military students. It is not fiscally responsible to build new schools because the next year, the xtra students could be gone. Once I was shifted from one elementary to another. Junior high – one year we did shifts. We could not ride a bus unless we lived 2 miles and kids walked. One never saw a contingent of mini-vans at the schools. This meant dressing warm because we had snow Nov-April. Yikes – yes we had to go to school and our parents had to work. Finally – we had avg of 15-20 kids per class. OMG – yes.
    Finally, I am former school board member. Studies have shown that unless you have under ten students, size of the class did not make a difference.
    So Parents – stop coddling the kids. Teachers – stop your whining. Get another job if you can't handle it – oh – and I have seen your contracts so stop whining. Admiistrators – do your jobs.

    December 10, 2011 at 10:43 pm |
    • Will S

      What studies?

      December 10, 2011 at 10:44 pm |
    • NellieG

      I guess you prove that you can learn no matter what the conditions, if you really want to learn. If children have the right motivation they will apply themselves to learn ll they can.

      December 10, 2011 at 10:54 pm |
  32. Jake

    Check out my conservative blog:

    December 10, 2011 at 10:39 pm |
  33. doh

    As a teacher myself I got sick and tired of seeing class sizes of 36,38,and even 40. My principal and the school board simply refused to lower class sizes.

    I picked up the phone and called the fire marshall and invited him into my classroom. The max capacity in my room was 32 including myself. The fire marshall told the principal she was breaking the law and issued a summons. Well, he issued 30 summons for each classroom that was over 32 kids. The next day the entire district had to totally restructure everything otherwise the fire marshall would shut down all the schools.

    December 10, 2011 at 10:31 pm |
    • S Lowder


      That might work in your state, but not in most schools in CA. It isn't the 40 kids, it's what you do with them! And yes I have taught classes of two grades in one room with 34 students. It was hard work, but the st indents did well.

      December 10, 2011 at 10:38 pm |
      • Art

        Just wanted to note how awesome you are for that. I went to a school with a similar situation and what made the difference was not the numbers but the motivation and enthusiasm the teacher had. Thank you all teachers for all your hard work!

        December 10, 2011 at 11:53 pm |
  34. bob

    Falling birth rate is very good news. Wish it would happen world wide. Of course smaller classes are better down to a certain level – once you get to zero what is the point. It also depends on the age. But for most of grade school I would say no more than 20.

    December 10, 2011 at 10:09 pm |
    • S Lowder

      Nice thought Bob. But look at the research and the cost data. 20 students doesn't really make a difference in student learning, but it does on the working conditions. We can not afford it today.

      December 10, 2011 at 10:17 pm |
    • Will S

      Primary education isn't really my field. I do think (based on my own teaching experiences) that class sizes between 15 and 25 are ideal from a cost-benefit perspective; smaller classes for younger kids, larger for older kids. I did a quick Google Scholar review and the first three relevant studies I skimmed all reported (when you boil it down) that smaller class sizes facilitate learning : The Tennessee study of class size in the early school grades (Mosteller, 1995). Answers and Questions About Class Size: A Statewide Experiment (Finn, 1990). The effects of class size on student achievement: New evidence from population variation (Hoxby, 2000).

      Could you provide some peer-reviewed evidence to the contrary?

      December 10, 2011 at 10:26 pm |
  35. NellieG

    Class size does not matter, it is family life and the school (teachers). Parents have to take an interest and we have to have good teachers. I went to a school with up to 35 in a class, with no teacher's assistant and we all learned. Had to or our parents would not be pleased. Hours matter too, the school day is too short, kids here go to school only 4 and a half days a week. From 8 am to 2 pm is too short a day. They get out at 11:30 every Tuesday. It is a teachers union thing... the hours.

    December 10, 2011 at 10:01 pm |
    • S Lowder


      You are right! Involved and supportive parents are the key. Communities and cultures that support education make the difference not just class size.

      December 10, 2011 at 10:09 pm |
      • NellieG

        I think that it is almost too late for USA students to compete in the world. Other places go to school 6 days a week and the parents are strict about their children getting an education. Our drop out rate is way too high and we have to stop babies having babies.

        December 10, 2011 at 10:23 pm |
      • S Lowder


        It's not too late. Look at what China had to overcome! We can do it, but we need to get started in a meaningful way.

        December 10, 2011 at 10:32 pm |
      • NellieG

        That is the problem, how to get started. Teachers Unions have a tight control on hours, etc. They are motived by money, give us more and we will made a concession or two. Some parents have no motivation to make sure that his/her child goes to school and actually does the work required. We have schools that are losing accreditation. Even our government is stalled, failing economy means hungry kids, homeless kids.

        December 10, 2011 at 10:43 pm |
    • Burt Way

      Good, but you left out the most important person in the school: the student. My parents rarely gave praise of any sort, probably their upbringing. So when I got 100 on a spelling test or a favorable comment on something I wrote I ate up the praise, and worked to get it. Whether praise from a teacher or another student.

      December 10, 2011 at 10:14 pm |
      • S Lowder


        You are right. Praise can be highly motivating if used correctly. Sometimes teachers and parents misuse the opportunity, both ways.

        December 10, 2011 at 10:20 pm |
      • NellieG

        My parents never praised me either and I made the National Honor Society with all A's. My parents instilled in me that an education was what was needed to get ahead in life, and good grades were expected. (They were very strict, but it worked.)

        December 10, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
  36. Jay Roberts

    In many ways small classes with multiple grades can be ideal. That's what I experienced in elementary school and we were given the freedom to learn at our own rate and interact with other children and different levels. As a result of their being so few kids the traditional teaching style wasn't used but instead we all were taught topics when the teacher felt we were ready. Though it can be expensive and schools shouldn't be quite as small as this one, education, and with that small class sizes, is one of the best ways to grow the American economy in the future.

    December 10, 2011 at 10:01 pm |
  37. Austin

    I completely agree that a small student to teacher ratio and a small classroom size is the ideal when it comes to education. However, I can say from experience that too small of a school can be detrimental to a student's education. From fourth to eighth grade I was in a small school with a maximum of 30 students divided between two full time teachers. At the end of my eighth grade year, I was one of two students who graduated from that school. When I entered a prestigious, private high school, I had no foreign language experience, next to no social experience, very little extracurricular activities, and a basic education. I am under the impression that, given the current economical climate, there seems to be no ideal solution for a top notch education in the U.S. You could either go to a large school or a miniscule school, and there is seemingly no clear alternative besides, of course, shelling out thirty grand to send your child to a private school, like my parents did.

    December 10, 2011 at 10:00 pm |
  38. mdupoise

    My father was born in Weybridge, Vermont in 1942. His achievements are a testimony to small class size, rural living and a strong, moral community upbringing. There is much to be said about the personalization of teaching, parent /teacher relationships and the importance of the neighborhood looking after the children in it. I disagree with the adage that it takes a village to raise a child but it does take a neighborhood. Smaller schools and schools that help a student find thier gifts instead of slamming them through a canned ciriculum is the way to develop a gifted society. Each student has different talents in various areas, some better at Math or English or the sciences, recognizing and guiding each student towards thier gifts is the greatest gift we can give our children and our society.

    December 10, 2011 at 9:56 pm |
  39. Citizenusa....not China

    Gee.....I haven't hear the rich scream for larger classes in their private boarding schools for little Suzy and little Johnny....have you?

    When Charlie and David Koch push for Deerfield Academy to raise the size of the classrooms to 30 plus students per teacher....then I'll support big classrooms in the public schools for the commoners.....but not until then.

    December 10, 2011 at 9:54 pm |
    • S Lowder

      The rich will always get what they think is right because they pay for it. For the rest of us we must think about cost and value for our tax dollars. They are not unlimited!

      December 10, 2011 at 10:01 pm |
  40. brian

    Vermont and all of new england are in the middle of no where yet people write articles like this wondering why people leave hmm.......

    December 10, 2011 at 9:52 pm |
  41. Felix

    Class size matters, of course, and no one with a sound understanding would doubt it. But it is not the only factor. In teaching, the most important factor is the teacher, in piloting the pilot and in painting the painter. Sounds simple right?.
    Then we should wonder why about 50 per cent of teachers leave the profession after 5 years. It does not seem that the most important factor here is very happy. How about improving teacher conditions and social recognition. Maybe not only half of them would not leave, probably some of the best would even join.

    December 10, 2011 at 9:48 pm |
    • S Lowder

      A lot of people think they can teach, but they don't have the right talent to do so. It really takes a special person to make a difference in a child's life in education. More should likely drop out and that might be good for the kids! It's not a job, it's a calling.

      December 10, 2011 at 9:57 pm |
  42. Mark5

    It is not just class size, it is the size of schools themselves. They are places where discontent and injustice brews. A perfect storm for incidents like Columbine and Virginia Tech. There should be smaller neighbourhood schools rather than larger impersonal and alienating larger schools. Class sizes should be kept small too so that each child does not get passed by. Many people also learn at a different pace than others and the "one size fits all" approach just does not work. The school system is similar to the prison system where clans and gangs form. The current school system takes young impressional minds and ruins them. If we want to create a better society, the entire school system needs to be reformed. immediately.

    December 10, 2011 at 9:46 pm |
    • S Lowder

      It isn't about size. In China I observed an elementary school of 5,000! No discipline, high achievement. I believe it's about relationships. If students have adults who care about them they will succeed.

      December 10, 2011 at 10:05 pm |
      • Sammi6532

        I agree that a strong teacher-child relationship will help child perform... But that is by far not the most important thing to consider when a child does not perform. With the economy being as it is we have more and more kids dealing with heavy stuff. This week alone I had a student disclose to me about his mother beating him, another student who has not seen her mother in three weeks, and another whose mother left her father. How can you expect a child to concentrate on anything with such turmoil? And with somewhere around 25 percent of children living in poverty, class sizes expanding, etc.... it's a rough world to be a kid or a teacher.

        December 11, 2011 at 1:15 am |
  43. Jonathan

    Go attempt teaching 25 children, anything at all.
    Then attempt teaching only 5.
    Then ask the inane question "does class size matter"

    December 10, 2011 at 9:43 pm |
    • S Lowder

      We can not afford to teach only five . I have taught classes of 30+ and it's hard work! But it can work well for students. Especially today when we have technology to support individual student learning and remediation!

      December 10, 2011 at 9:52 pm |
  44. Judy75201

    Warehousing students is always good for the bottom line. Anyone who thinks it is right or good is a sicko. I think someday soon we will be able to file suit against those who have perpetuated this evil, money-driven, ruin of our education system.

    December 10, 2011 at 9:35 pm |
  45. RetLaEnvEmployee

    Read a bunch of posts on how good the education system and everything else is in Vermont. Why are businesses, jobs and young adults leaving if the State and the education system is so good? People and business vote with their feet and moving trucks – they leave. You can jump up and down, claim this and that, raise any excuse you want – some places are failures and/or doomed to failed because what they are doing is wrong. Period. The tooth fairy, liberals and/or conservatives are not going to save you.

    December 10, 2011 at 9:32 pm |
    • Will S

      What are you talking about? Vermont's population is up 2000 – 2010; Census stats show a moderate decrease in the number of very young children and a moderate increase in teenagers. This article is a blog, not a hard-hitting investigative piece. Take any numbers or statistics thrown around as unverified opinion, not verified fact. The school situation in Vermont is probably the result of shifting population centers within the state, not some sort of Yuppie exodus.

      December 10, 2011 at 9:47 pm |
  46. VRage13

    Of course the size of the class matters. Many studies have shown this. What a silly article. But since you put forth a forum for me to sound off, I will. The fed gov't needs to get out of the education business with the exception of the military academies. Primary education should be handled, controlled, oversaw, accomplished at home, in the church, private schools or local community schools. College education should be oversaw by the state, private endowment, or churches. This is the formula used when the country was founded and it worked. The failure of No-Child-Left-Behind and other school initiatives show that when the fed gov't gets involved it goes to crap.

    December 10, 2011 at 9:29 pm |
    • S Lowder

      The facts are that all subgroups have improved under NCLB. Especially minorities! The pass – fail rubic of NCLB was ill conceived . Things have gotten better for students in math and language arts. We have left out science, art, music, social studies AND civics!

      December 10, 2011 at 9:39 pm |
    • D Rufus Onfure

      Seriously, you expect to give advice on education when you can't conjugate a verb in English? It is "overseen"!

      December 10, 2011 at 9:51 pm |
      • Burt Way

        OK he mistyped then hit ENTER too fast.

        December 10, 2011 at 10:19 pm |
  47. shoridgehills

    Vermont has many beautiful rural communities with similar problems of shrinking school populations. There is some background information not mentioned in this article. The education budget is funded by statewide property taxes. They fund only a portion of the budget locally. There is little financial incentive for the community to change. I imagine most funding is from out of town. There is a two teir tax system with locals paying less than businesses and vacation homeowners (a large number statewide).
    The costs are not reflected in teacher salaries. Vermont pay is lower than surounding states. A teacher can easily make as much in a less demanding job in tourist industry. Teacher strikes are not uncommon. There might be only 4 teachers in the school, but how many people are on the school board(s) that administer this school district(s)?
    Is this small school better for the child or the parents? Schools should be more the the 3 Rs with social skills and the ablity to fit into the American society important too. I wonder how this would be maintained with only one child in a grade. As a parent it is nice to have your child conviently nearby in the small setting. Will this child be able to move beyond the small community into the multicultural American future?

    December 10, 2011 at 9:20 pm |
  48. Lolololol

    I really don't understand why this is still up for debate.... There is mountains of research that shows smaller class sizes being more beneficial for the students. I'd say it were pretty much common sense that more face time 1 on 1 with the teacher = more time to work out those kinks before your child gets passed over and the class moves on without them... For every kid over 30, classroom management becomes exponentially harder to exercise.

    December 10, 2011 at 9:15 pm |
    • FunkyMonkey7

      Is it really fact or common sense? The East Asians and the Indians would beg to differ.

      December 10, 2011 at 9:23 pm |
      • Justin

        And what the Asians and the Indians think is right. Good one.

        December 10, 2011 at 9:42 pm |
    • S Lowder

      Sorry, it might sound like common sense, but if you look at class size research, you must get to that 12:1 figure to make a significant difference. The national cst of that number is very large.

      December 10, 2011 at 9:24 pm |
    • USminority

      Did you even read the article?? That isn't even mentioned once. This article is about schools having too few students to cover the costs of the facilities and employee payroll.
      @ justin
      Change your name. After looking at a couple of your posts, Justin is now synonymous with idiot.

      December 10, 2011 at 10:51 pm |
  49. S Lowder

    Well the research shows that class size needs to get below 12-15 before there is any significant impact on student achievement. CA's class size reduction experiment had little impact on student achievement, but does impact teacher working conditions. I observed highly motivated engaged students in Chinese classrooms with 40+ students. They were getting a great education. China has more gifted children than the US has children! We need to make some serious changes if we want to keep our democracy that depends upon a high quality public education!

    December 10, 2011 at 8:53 pm |
    • tom

      "China has more gifted children than the US has children!" That is obvious. Compare the population of the U.S. vs. China. So what? What is your point, that we all need to start reading Mao's little red book and become dutiful communists who only do what the state tells them to do.

      Comparing Americans to Chinese in the way you have done is absurd. Two different societies, cultures and governments.

      December 10, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
      • Lolololol

        You sir should run yourself off that same bridge most half witted right wing thinking rejects do. Once you KNOW why China became communist in the first place, and can do more than just rattle off a few plugs here and there come back. China values education, and that doesn't just ring out from the government. Picture America in 1970, there is China today. You helped create that behemoth with your free markets, deregulation, REGULATION, lust for lower prices, love of cheap labor. Blame no one but yourself and only then, will you start seeing the big picture.

        December 10, 2011 at 9:11 pm |
      • Will S

        Nixon is the President of China?

        December 10, 2011 at 9:15 pm |
  50. Will S

    I I attended eight schools during my primary years. Some were better, some were worse. Same with the teachers. From my perspective, kids generally learn as much they choose to. If their parents want them to learn, then they learn even more. A teacher might help for a year here and there, but no one is going to have the world's best teacher every year. Most likely, after 12 years of education the typical student will have had an average education (go figure).

    Classroom activities and props (books, art supplies, band instruments, science lab equipment) are more important than computers and electronics. A kid will learn more using a pH meter to measure water samples or acting out a scene from Shakespeare than playing with an iPad.

    December 10, 2011 at 8:53 pm |
    • tom

      I think that a smaller class size makes learning easier. But how well students learn, is dependent on many factors. So those who expect smaller sized classes to produce better results irrespective of other considerations, are not understanding all the variables.

      December 10, 2011 at 9:02 pm |
  51. FunkyMonkey7

    I don't know if it actually matters. Look at East Asian countries (especially in the 70s and 80s). They had huge class sizes, yet they produced a generation of amazingly brilliant and industrious workers in the math and science fields.

    December 10, 2011 at 8:51 pm |
    • Will S

      Not necessarily. You typically see the cream of the crop (as far as Chinese students go) in the US. I've worked with a number of them they often are like human calculators. However, their work is typically not very innovative. Someone you want working on a project with you, but not someone you want in charge.

      December 10, 2011 at 8:54 pm |
  52. DC

    Why would anyone have kids this day in age? Look at the cost of education, healthcare, housing, transportation, etc. Children are economic liabilities today, not the economic assets they were say 100 years ago. Kids don't work on the family farm or in the family store, and don't expect them to take care of you when you're old either.

    December 10, 2011 at 8:43 pm |
    • Will S

      Reproduction is the biological imperative and the meaning of you will discover when you die childless and no one cares. Enjoy your money, I'll enjoy my legacy.

      December 10, 2011 at 8:56 pm |
      • tom

        you won't be enjoying your legacy after you are dead....absurd comment from you.

        December 10, 2011 at 9:04 pm |
      • Will S

        I'm enjoying them *now*. Read between the lines, hotshot.

        December 10, 2011 at 9:05 pm |
      • Will S

        ...and s/he won't be enjoying his/her money after s/he's dead, either, for that matter...

        December 10, 2011 at 9:06 pm |
  53. Excuse Me

    Excuse me, who wrote this? "Black and white cows that look like Oreo cookies." What? Have you never seen a cow? Cows, other than being black and white, actually look nothing like cookies. Also, describing a kindergartener as a " towheaded little thing with probing blue eyes" is a little strange for a news article. Save it for your novel. What is this article?

    December 10, 2011 at 8:43 pm |
    • fromvermont

      the cows are probably Belted Galloways they are black at both ends and have a white belt in the middle they do indeed look like oreos.

      December 10, 2011 at 9:31 pm |
    • Pam

      You have obviously never been to Vermont. We DO have cows that are black on both ends and white in the middle. We affectionately call them Oreo cows. I suggest you limit your comments to what you know.

      December 10, 2011 at 10:20 pm |
  54. X-teacher

    You bet class size matters. We only have so much time and energy. I quit teaching because all of my efforts were rewarded with blame and insults. The public has no idea how money is wasted in school systems. Ever notice those expensive flashing school signs telling the world that this week's word is kindness? My school denied me math textbooks for lack of funds, while inventing administrative positions for people with political pull and hiring a local sculpture who was friends with the principal, to create 5, count them, 5 bronze statues to place around the school. Kids are the LAST consideration. Propaganda is the first.

    December 10, 2011 at 8:42 pm |
  55. Kelley

    With few exceptions, Vermont gets it right in public education.

    The focus remains on students and teachers-and Vermonters bear the fruits of their investment.

    At my high school in VT, we had outstanding teachers who taught for 30+ years. I took 4 years of Latin; we put on a Broadway play each year; had a full sports program, band, chorus, orchestra, etc. Fabulous.

    In big-city districts like Jax, where I'm completing my teaching career, language, drama, art & sports programs are cut while we have more specialists, academic coaches, chiefs, principals & directors. Lots of $$$ invested in adults who don't have direct contact w/ students. So few kids here experience what we did in VT public schools.

    Thank you, Vermonters, for keeping the focus on students, teachers & schools.

    December 10, 2011 at 8:38 pm |
  56. USminority

    wow cnn writer's are the worst. I just come to this site to read the ridiculous comments. I skimed through this article looking for relation between class size and how children learn and act. But nothing. This article could have been enlightening on so many levels, but rose made it utterly pointless. Please fire this "jounralist."

    December 10, 2011 at 8:37 pm |
  57. Geez

    Class size shouldnt really matter... Parents are expected to spend additional time at home working with their kids. Shouldnt that be enough attention... and its one on one.

    December 10, 2011 at 8:26 pm |
    • tom

      hmmm, didn't you EVER ask questions in class? Much harder to do if there are 40 class time you see.

      December 10, 2011 at 9:05 pm |
    • Lola

      Smaller class sizes means more time spent on teaching and less time on discipline. You need to get out more.

      December 10, 2011 at 9:08 pm |
    • raggedhand

      Well, you can gather up all of the kids with two parents at home and who have a parent who stays at home to help them with their homework and give them at one and one attention and are educated and dedicated enough to know how to help a kid with advanced chemistry, German or writing computer code along with all of the other classes kids take nowadays. And then, when you've gather up both of the kids who meet your criteria, what are you going to do with the other 30 million who don't?

      December 10, 2011 at 9:19 pm |
  58. Don'tsaythat...

    Does class size matter? In reality, not even a fraction as much as a teacher's mental skills and work ethic matter. But, we can't really go there, can we?

    December 10, 2011 at 8:25 pm |
    • Sher

      I've taught science in Austin and now Seattle, so I love to hear people who don't teach weigh in on either side and give their opinions. Let me share my EXPERIENCE as an educator in two high profile school districts. Classes over 30 are manageable and even effective if you are teaching students who are on grade level, can read and write and have parents who are supportive. Add 2-3 kids to a class of 30 who don't meet these criteria and then you spend a lot of time with them either assisting or redirecting behavior and wish you had more time for the others. I have had classes as low as 14 in middle school science that were left me breathless and exhausted because I was working so hard to help the helpless. So there is no magic formula and I am tired hearing what it should and should not be. It is reflective often of the situation of each child and correlated to the learning gaps possessed by each student.

      December 10, 2011 at 8:40 pm |
      • tom

        "Sher I've taught science in Austin and now Seattle, so I love to hear people who don't teach weigh in on either side and give their opinions. "

        Dear Sher, I and everyone else who can type in these boxes, WENT TO SCHOOL! Therefore we have an opinion because just like you, we've all been in the classroom. Are teachers the only folks who can have an opinion about school? Students no? Perhaps this is part of the problem...that some teachers don't take student feedback seriously.

        December 10, 2011 at 9:08 pm |
      • raggedhand

        @ Tom....

        Yes, you've all gone to school.... and we all eat every day, but that doesn't make us chefs.

        December 10, 2011 at 9:20 pm |
    • mdmann

      Oh, you COULD go there, but you run the risk of making yourself look like a complete idiot because you don't know what you are talking about. You need to read Sher's response to you.

      I challenge you to go spend some time in a middle or high school classroom in your area. Don't pick some honors or AP class. Pick some regular class and observe what is going on. Make a special note of how much time the teacher has to deal with incredibly stupid discipline issues. Sher stated that having to deal with 2 or more students not on task severely hinders instruction–I'd say that it really takes only one (and I was also a former teacher, but left because I simply could not afford to live in the area I was teaching in on the salary provided). Teachers are not the enemy here, and until this gets clarified among the public, our educational system will continue to have serious problems.

      December 10, 2011 at 9:05 pm |
      • umhummsure

        You MUST be kidding. As the comment stated, class size does matter, just not as much as certain other things. You, on the basis of that response, seek to grind the heel of your pedantic agenda into the discourse. Perhaps you should just hire a lobbyist to promote your teachers union agenda.

        December 10, 2011 at 10:53 pm |
  59. Edison

    Hi, I'm a current senior. I'll be graduating this year and will be attending the University of Chicago next year. One thing I've noticed with class size is that smaller classes are best. I live in Iowa currently and our school breaks down the classes into miniature sections and it couldn't work better. I've traveled and lived everywhere from England to Wisconsin. One thing that's common between both places is that they have HUGE classes. You can't learn anything, you easily get distracted, and you don't get the attention you need. I will say that the teacher plays a giant role in this. For instance, even if you have a small class and an off-topic teacher, you won't ever learn anything. One thing I wish more of my teachers do is engage us in the material in a small class setting. My AP English teacher does that and it's wonderful.

    December 10, 2011 at 8:18 pm |
    • Lola

      Come on. Teachers are assigned the number of students they get, whether it's 10 or 40. BELIEVE me, they'd love nothing better than to have smaller classrooms, as they'd actually be able to teach, rather than having to stop to discipline the precious darlings whose parents will sue at the word "boo." That said, I find it hard to believe you're a high school student. You come across as a poser.

      December 10, 2011 at 9:13 pm |
  60. Stephanie

    I think it all sounds wonderful! Costly perhaps, and here in California, it would be anyone's dream to have a local school like this one. However, no matter what it costs, we have to remember that living in Vermont does have its setbacks, such as limited employment, cold grey winters, higher heating costs etc. You can't have it all. Good luck to this community – it is heartwarming to read some of the positive comments here.

    December 8, 2011 at 10:47 am |
    • Michele

      HI Stephanie,
      We Vermonters don't see that all as downsides- limited employment for sure, but cold gray winters? Lots of winter is filled with bright blue skies, snow, skiing, sledding and winter hiking. Many of us love winter (okay, sometimes it lasts a bit too long, but for the most part). As for heating, our heating bill is way cheaper than our air conditioning bill in the summer (many of also heat with wood and have radiant floor heat) and it gives us a chance to sit by the fireplace and READ. I feel sorry for all your "sunny all the time" Californians (:-) Okay, I'm kidding in part, but Vermont winters bring tons of tourists and skiers who would much rather be in Vermont than say New York in winter. It's one of my favorite times. We live in a great community and we love our school and will do everything we can to keep it. I've lived in NY, Florida, Oregon, NH but Vermont is my favorite.

      December 8, 2011 at 11:32 am |
  61. vermontparent

    All of the good that this small school does can be found in countless other communities across our state – having had three children spend their elementary years in a school of 150 was a dream – the unfortunate reality of what is not addressed is both the secondary school situation when its time for High School and the likelihood that they will be bussed for up to 45 minutes each way and the even greater problem that our kids will likely leave Vermont for a reasonable paying see the reasons the schools are so small is that there are too many young people leaving the state since they cant survive on $10/hr jobs.....

    December 8, 2011 at 10:23 am |
    • Jon

      I don't know about you. But I can "survive" on 10 bucks an hour. I won't be living life up, but you'll survive.

      December 10, 2011 at 8:54 pm |
      • Lola

        Well, YOU maybe, but if you have kids, $10/hr doesn't cut it. How about looking beyond your own nose for once?

        December 10, 2011 at 9:15 pm |
  62. Weybridge community member

    I am a retired early childhood educator and a volunteer in the Weybridge School. Something not mentioned in the blog or in the video is that the school climate is second to none. Children learn in the Weybridge School to be respectful of other students and to resolve differences by negotiating and talking things out. The result is a safe, nurturing environment where children can actually learn optimally. Children in Weybridge behave as if they were in a big extended family. Older children help younger ones, everyone knows everyone else, and this leads to a very strong sense of community. Furthermore, on all measures of academic success, Weybridge School always comes out at the top, including standardized testing and other more subjective measures. Although it isn't easy, we in Weybridge support our kids, both elementary and secondary, because we believe in them and because we value education. We know that these children will be taking care of us in our old age, both literally and figuratively. We can count on them in the future because they can count on us now.

    December 7, 2011 at 9:58 pm |
    • Pros and Cons

      I think that it is great that these kids have a chance to grow in such a tight-knit community, however what these students are also lacking is diversity. I used to go to a school like Weybridge, and when I changed schools, I was almost hit with a sort of culture shock due to the differences in the environments. And while it's great that you guys are coming out on top on standardized testing-and I don't mean offense by this-with a smaller school, the odds of students doing poorly on a ST is lower, so the scores will most definately be higher than schools with 20 students per class.

      December 10, 2011 at 8:42 pm |
      • Gabriel

        Diversity and your feel good crap is what is screwing it all up.

        December 10, 2011 at 10:59 pm |
  63. Vermonter

    They forgot to mention that Vermont regularly scores the highest in the nation for public school (6-12) standardized testing and was recently voted as the state with the best education system.

    Small schools only serve to benefit those attending, folks.

    December 7, 2011 at 8:23 pm |
    • JOSE0311USMC

      any school that have less than 15 kids per class room should score high on any test score....go to a poor school in LA-Chicago-The NY and you will find 35 to 40 kids per class room..sad ...those who have money are the first to tell you that money is not the answer , my ass is order to have small class side , it will require more teachers–more schools, which means more money....usually those who have the money and small class side are the ones saying that money is not the answer, bull.

      December 10, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
    • VTteacher

      In addition, VT students take the NECAP to prove AYP. The NECAP is one of the most rigorous NCLB tests in the country.

      December 10, 2011 at 8:53 pm |
  64. casey

    I have worked in both large and small schools in Vermont over the past 18 years. Large schools have benefits, but small schools, elementary and high schools, seem to be able to maintain an intimacy and connection among faculty, administration, students and community that large schools cannot. In large settings, there seems to be a higher cost financially that is not spoken about. When schools become large, faculty can easily become disconnected and sort of disappear from the scene (i.e. avoid volunteering for committees and other needs the school might have). When this happens the school or district employs someone to do the jobs left without volunteers. In a small school, you cannot become invisible in this way. You know if you do not volunteer, your colleague will need to. So, people fill the spots and extend themselves further and deepen their connection to the system and ownership of the workings of the school and its community. Th e large school who hires someone to fill various roles lessen the connection by fracturing the community into smaller and smaller parts and lessening the connection among faculty, students and administration. None of this includes the cost of busing students further out of their communities and the money spent on this that has little to do with educating children. I have worked in and with a wonderful Vermont elementary school (K-6)with 28 kids... a truly beautiful place to have children attend and experience (Windham). I also taught for 3 years in a high school with 65 kids total in the high school (this was a K-12 school in Whitingham,Vt). Another beautiful place to have students go; community, staff, faculty and admin. were all intimately connected. Wonderful things can happen in those settings. It is impossible to put a price tag on that sort of thing.

    December 7, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
  65. Nonamerequired

    Fact is, the typical South Korean classroom has an average of 34 students. The United States sits at about 24. South Korea continually obliterates the United States in testing and overall education. It's not the class size, it's not the teachers, it's not (entirely) the students. It's our outlook on education as a country. We have no respect for it, and treat it like some sort of time sink. Children view it as social time, parents view it as time away from their kids, or free babysitting. Teachers, most of them have good intentions, there are a lot however, that don't put in the effort, and I can understand why; when you have kids that don't want to learn, it makes it extremely difficult to teach.

    If we want better education, we need to change into a society that WANTS to be educated. Start teaching your kids to respect their teachers, and help them with their homework every once in a while. Get them tutored when they are struggling in certain subjects so they don't fall behind. Just actually put in the effort!

    December 7, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
    • GooseTheFox

      I helped teach English at a South Korean school and maybe they can take test but it's all about memorization. Practically speaking the kids are lost. The classes were not over 30 kids either. Closer to 20 actually. This was only 4 years ago.

      So basically I'm saying...shut up

      December 7, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
      • Wondering

        @ GooseTheFox......can you tell me if all students in South Korea are required to go to school? Many people don't realize that nearly all of the nations at the top of the educational testing world wide, don't required everyone to go to school. Essentially they are taking the top 15-20 percent of their children and educating them in all core classes. For the rest, they get education to be in the work force if they choose to be educated.

        December 7, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
    • JOSE0311USMC

      south korean kids are well discipline , they are not wild like American kids.. why smaller class side is the key to learning.

      December 10, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
    • Texasteacha

      Does the Korean government mandate education for 100% of its youth through secondary school and provide it free? I don't know anything about Korean education, but the last time I heard, the US was the only country that educated 100% of its youth with general eduction through secondary school for free, rather than the ones judged the most "fit" for it and/or who can afford it. Might this account for the United States' overall performance on international test scores?

      December 10, 2011 at 8:16 pm |
    • VTteacher

      When S. Korean kids leave school they go to after school schools sometimes until 10 at night. How many US kids do (or should do) that?

      December 10, 2011 at 8:55 pm |
  66. Leslie

    Class size is a huge issue. A smaller class with a smaller teacher to student ratio is vital for students productive learning. The smaller the teacher student ratio, the better for the students. I taught a 2nd grade with 24 ELL students. Only 8 were almost at grade level, the other students two years behind. In a class like this you need 4 teachers, going around and helping the students. You cannot direct teach all the time to 2nd grade, especially when there are so many different levels of students and language knowledge.

    Although, budget cuts and other nonsense, many schools classes are max the minimum classroom size. Someone making all the rules and budget cuts doesn't even know what its like in the schools.

    December 7, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
  67. Jim

    It is a FACT that the mean black I.Q. in the U.S. is 85 (in sub-Saharan Africa it is 70). This FACT is taboo. The response to this FACT will be to call me names. Unless we stop denying reality, we are never going to solve this nation's problems. This is true of our educational system, our economy and our debased culture. Denying reality and hurling pc cliches will not solve our problems, nor will trying to force a fantasy to become reality by wasting massive sums of money.

    December 7, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
    • tom

      Jim, please source this statistic if you could.

      December 7, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
    • LAD

      Explain what your trying to say?

      December 7, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
    • Stan

      Putting it in all caps doesn't make it credible from an anonymous posting such as yours. Citing a trustworthy source does.

      December 7, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
    • a250

      According to Wikipedia: The Bell Curve (1994) stated that the average IQ of African Americans was 85, Latino 89, White 103, Asian 106, and Jews 113.

      There are other studies that disagree with these numbers of course, but such is the way of statistics.

      December 10, 2011 at 8:23 pm |
      • Lola

        "The Bell Curve" has received hundreds of criticisms, and, more importantly, wasn't peer-reviewed. Try college.

        December 10, 2011 at 9:18 pm |
    • Kara

      This is from the book, "The Bell Curve," which was, of course, controversial. You can read more on wiki

      In most countries, they spend more resources on schools/populations who aren't doing as well. The goal is to help get them up to speed. In our country, we tend to give our wealthiest, highest performing people our best resources–and our poorest, our worst. That's a big issue. Our culture which does not value education (even in a President...remember the "elitist" jibes?) is a BIG problem. It's an even bigger problem in African-American and Hispanic communities. How we treat our teachers in terms of pay, respect, etc. is a problem. Teaching rarely attracts our best and brightest. Now, most teachers teach to the test–which is going to prove disastrous in terms of our creativity and breadth of knowledge. It doesn't look good for America.

      December 10, 2011 at 8:50 pm |
      • Lola

        Teachers teach to the test because they've been given no choice. One question: Do you ever go outside? Because you wouldn't be posting such drivel if you did.

        December 10, 2011 at 9:19 pm |
  68. ThereIsNoGod

    Isn't it cheaper to bus all those students to the next town?
    You live in a town of 800! Cost of living is probably dirt cheap. You can afford to pay more to keep your school open. If not then close it and bus those students to the next town. In the mean time stop complaining! If only my kids were so lucky here in California to have a small class size.

    December 7, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
    • JD

      Poor people generally live in small towns. There's less disposable income.

      December 7, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
      • Lola

        Oh, yes – small towns like Nyack, New York, and Malibu, California are so poverty stricken! Let me ask you something: Why do you even bother?

        December 10, 2011 at 9:22 pm |
    • weybridge resident

      Most Weybridge residents aren't complaining. We love our school! The cost of living here is very high, in part because good-paying jobs are scarce, and because of how schools are funded. Our taxes are the highest in the area. Busing is a seemingly easy answer, but as it was stated in the article, the school is the center of our small community. Just closing it has ramifications beyond what happens to our students – it would affect how we connect as a town. My spouse and I are grateful for this small school and the excellent education our children are getting and will do everything in our power to keep it afloat.

      December 7, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
    • casey

      I don't think anyone was complaining. CNN wrote and article. At the end, the town pledged to keep the school alive.

      December 7, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
    • Vermont Resident

      You obviously don't know much about Vermont if you assume the cost of living here is dirt cheap. We pay dearly for the quality of our education, quality of life and the small communities. These are the things that keep many people here despite the high cost of living; I would not chose to raise my child anywhere else in the country.

      I had a 45 minutes bus ride, with one transfer, to get from my house to the local high school, and it was just in the next town over. I was lucky that my elementary and middle schools were very close (only 4 miles). Busing is not always cheaper or even a viable option in small communities spread over such a wide distance as ours can be.

      December 8, 2011 at 11:44 am |
      • Lola

        The community has it right. Being educated and healthy costs money. Those who are leaving are merely interested in existing amongst the bounty of rest stops and chrome and plastic fast food junkyards. In other words, they're on their way to stupid, and willingly so. Good riddance.

        December 10, 2011 at 9:24 pm |
  69. honest abe

    overcrowding is one major issue that destroys the quality of education – BUT add english language learners to the mix and you have a sock bag with no matches. it becomes utter chaos and to make it worse – the main focus can't be on the kids at grade level, the focus is on the kids that are far below grade level. I don't think Vermont has this problem. come to california and rewrite this article.

    December 7, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
  70. ComeOnMan9

    I aint got no teaching degree but the first part of my sentence illustrates the consequence of my inner city education with 40 other students to one class. Case in point.

    December 7, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
    • BioHzrd420

      Well it seems you had enough to realize how to write the sentence to make your point. I'll even go so far to say you do know how to write it properly but won't for this article.

      December 7, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
    • Lola

      Given your tongue-in-cheek post, I'd say you had an excellent teacher.

      December 10, 2011 at 9:25 pm |
  71. angryersmell

    10 kids in a classroom = Educational dream come true
    20 kids in a classroom = Great
    30 kids in a classroom = Not so bad and easily managed by a well supported professional
    40 kids in a classroom = The horrible new normal; glorified babysitting

    December 7, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
    • Nellie

      You are right except in my experience, 10 students were too few students in a class. I taught high school for two years (run out by awful administration), and I would have loved to have 15-20 students a class.

      December 7, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
    • BioHzrd420

      Welcome to the world of the lecturer....100+ students gotta love it.

      December 7, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
    • joanna

      Well, in elementary school, I had 30-40 kids per class. I'm 28 right now so that was during the 90s. And you know what, my school had the highest test scores in in the City even with 30-40 kids per class so I wouldn't say that large class sizes automatically means poor achievement. Additionally, we also didn't have teacher aides. I know people are concerned about class sizes but that was never an issue in the 90s, at least in my area. Additionally, my elementary school was packed, we had to bring so many additional portables and it ate up playground space.

      December 7, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
    • CosmicC

      It's not quite so simple. The appropriate size varies with age and subject. You certainly wouldn't want 20 kids in a kindergarten class, but that's a good size for 3rd or 4th grade. Once you drop below 15 at the elementary level you lose critical mass (you need to take into account pull-outs, absences, etc.), but in a high school honors program 10 might be the right number to explore difficult subjects in depth.

      December 7, 2011 at 2:02 pm |
  72. ObviousTruth

    As a teacher, I believe there are no stupid questions, until I saw this one about class size. Let me try and answer the question in two ways: 1) have you ever wondered why Christ chose 12 disciplines instead of 40? Easier to teach 12 than 40–you think? How many parents have had birthday parties for their children when they were young and had 30 or more kids vs. 20 or 10 or less. If you think class size does not matter, than I say if you are a parent have 30 kids over for your child's birthday and celebrate it for 40 weeks then comeback and say it does not matter. Let me a third point. Why is it private schools and elite colleges brag about low class sizes if it does not matter? Is it that it DOES matter?

    December 7, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
    • Kleinesgor

      Are you having parties in your classroom? I want you to be my teacher. Keep those unruly kids at bay. Agree with your third point.

      December 7, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
    • J.C.

      Answer to #1: because Jesus could only find 12 people dumb enough to actually believe he was the offspring of the invisible flying spaghetti monster.
      But I agree with you that smaller class size translates into a better learning environment. As long as the teacher isn't pushing mythology on the kids as fact.

      December 7, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
  73. Kim

    I'm not quite sure why this situation is shocking. This school setting was actually the traditional way of formal schooling in the 1800's, especially on the frontier. Children of all ages went to school in a one-room schoolhouse, with a single teacher who instructed them all. While one 'class' was given the lecture, the other 'classes' worked on their own studies. One could argue that students learned very well, as this system produced some of the nation's greatest minds.

    December 7, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
    • binky42

      Since this nation is only 235 years old, and you're talking about nearly half of that history, it isn't really surprising that many of the great minds came from that time.

      December 7, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
    • Sarah

      And also excluded a large segment of the population. Not every child was afforded an education in the 1800s and those who were, very rarely went beyond elementary school unless they had an exceptional intelligence or a hefty family wallet.

      December 7, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
    • ialsoagree

      Then again, those studies also included demons and spirits being the responsible agents for diease.

      What your assessment ignores is that the knowledge base has grown exponentially since the 1800's. And I assure you, no one today would be considered one of the "great minds" if they lacked a modern education.

      December 7, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
    • LAD

      Education back then was at a whole different level. It was honorable to go to school then as it still can be today for many many students. Back then in the one room school house many people were not allowed to go to school either. School was freedom from work. Even though school now is in a way freedom, because learning is your own freedom and what you do with your learning is your own choice. I want to make the point now, that Education is not as respected as it was in the one room US school house days. The US culture of education is very complicated now and it takes a lot more to learning than just going to school. You can't learn well hungry, sleep deprived, scared,cold, or not knowing if your going to see your mama or papa ever again.

      December 7, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
      • Lola

        One-room schoolhouses existed because they were a practical solution to education a town's children; typically, age ranges were so random that segregating students by age was impractical and unaffordable. As for school being a measure of freedom, seriously? Compulsory education laws require students to attend school until they're legally old enough to quit should they choose to do so. Come on – stop seeing education on an emotional level. It's embarrassing.

        December 10, 2011 at 9:31 pm |
  74. Len

    Wow, I can't imagine classes that small. When I was teaching, we had room that were overcrowded. I had close to 40 kids in my room and you couldn't even get around to all the desks because the small room was so crowded. I would consider a class size that small amazing.

    December 7, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
  75. chefdugan

    As a wise man once said (to paraphrase) all you need for a good learning experience is a good teacher on one end of a log and a good student on the other. The teacher doesn't need to ask quetions, only answer them and impart knowledge. The whole idea of back and forth conversations during class between teacher and student is stupid and interupts the teaching flow. You can always have a question period set aside for that.

    December 7, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
    • Len

      Questioning is a very important part of the learning process. It sometimes takes probing to help children learn, as well a a teacher playing devils advocate. Socrates had the right idea with that 😉

      December 7, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
    • Kam

      While the sayings of wise man can be interpreted in multiple ways, the research shows, students learn best when there is interaction in the class room. Lecture mode classes accounts for least amount of learning.

      December 7, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
    • JaneKSass

      Stick to cooking, chefdugan. You are clueless.

      December 7, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
    • T3chsupport

      The ability to have a back and forth conversation keeps students far more engaged than yawning through a lecture, then trying to remember the questions they had about it afterward. If you're not engaging the students, you aren't teaching, you're just talking at them, wasting your time and theirs.

      December 7, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
      • Lola

        Great. Another community college reject heard from. Look, cupcake, the reason other nations are MILES ahead of us in terms of scholastic achievement is because of dolts like you who don't demand excellence from students. So get a clue: school is about building knowledge capital. Grow up already, and stop expecting the world to entertain you 24/7/365. It doesn't exist solely for your benefit.

        December 10, 2011 at 9:36 pm |
    • Kennedy

      In order to have question period set aside, you would need more time (less students) per class. There is no better feedback than that of the students. Engaging them on the topic makes it all more interesting. I was one who needed probing. I went to a school with 28-30 kids per classroom and to one with no more than 5 per classroom. I did a lot better at the one with less kids per classroom. I enjoyed the classes a lot more as they were more engaging.

      December 7, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
    • Dr. Fred

      If you want to compete in the 21st century, then class size can be a maximum of 20 students for most classes that require real thought like reading/comprehension, mathematics, and the sciences.

      While I was getting my PhD in engineering there were two distinct groups of people in the class. The inquisitive group (mostly westerns), and the silent group (mostly Chinese). This was partly because of a language barrier, but partly because each group was raised very differently. I am friends with many from the silent group, and know that most of their English skills were good enough to carry on a detailed technical conversation.

      I can tell you now that after practicing engineering for 3 years, the inquisitive group has it right. The problem with school is they teach you a lot of canned problems that have straight forward solutions. The most important part of my job today is asking the right questions because the problems are rarely straightforward. And being inquisitive is something that takes practice from a young age. I had to catch up because I was part of the silent group growing up although I am from the US, but it has paid off big time.

      This is why western education is still sought after by the Chinese and others. Its because we don't force memorization anymore, we force creativity. A computer can solve most of the memorization problems at a fraction of the cost.

      I had 5 high paying job offers at the height of the economic collapse in 2008 without sending out a single resume. Some of the silent group are still out of work or doing jobs below their technical ability, but have the same degree I have.

      Being inquisitive is absolutely what we should be teaching, and is what all the high paying employers are looking for. We hired through the recession, and still can't find enough highly educated people because its easier/cheaper to teach memorization than creativity.

      P.S. More than 90% of my classes between K-PhD had less that 25 students.

      December 7, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
  76. binky42

    Class size isn't an issue as long as you have good teachers and an administration that is willing to support them. On average, I had 33 other kids in my class when I went to school. This was a very urban school district, and the schools still performed high on national tests.

    December 7, 2011 at 12:35 pm |
    • Justin

      Spoken like someone who has never taught before.

      December 10, 2011 at 9:37 pm |
      • Lola


        December 10, 2011 at 9:45 pm |
  77. Michele Bayliss

    As a resident of Weybridge who has one student currently in 3rd grade and another now in 9th grade who attended Weybridge Elementary, I'd like to express my satisfaction with the incredible teachers, caring principal (who can be found at the school till late in the evenings and weekends) and fantastic, personalized education my children received. There are no words for the love and affection the teachers have for their students nor for the caring and super involved community who contribute to every aspect of the school from bringing in local produce for meals to an active parents' club that organizes town wide events. As a native of New York City, the overcrowding is horrifying – we moved here largely for the schools and the bucolic, old fashioned environment and we have not been disappointed, at least not with the elementary school. Viewers may want to note that while Dylan is the only kindergartener, most classes have 10-12 students in each class as every other class features combinations of grades 1-2, 2-3, 4-5, etc.... It's a bit misrepresentative to focus on the one class that has one student – much of that student's day is in fact spent with the 1st and 2nd graders. Instead of focusing on what's wrong with small classes, the country as a whole should be examining how to lessen class size, pay teachers more and minimize the inequality been students from different economic backgrounds. Weybridge is a first rate school and more schools should emulating our model instead of insisting (as the CNN anchor did) that teachers should just be "better" and learn to deal with overcrowded classes.

    December 7, 2011 at 9:16 am |