THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
A NATIONAL EFFORT TO REDUCE CLASS SIZE: SMALLER CLASSES WITH WELL-PREPARED TEACHERS May 8, 1998
Today, the President spoke to the Delaware legislature to promote his comprehensive education agenda. He announced that he is transmitting legislation to Congress to reduce class size to a national average of 18 in grades 1-3, and he highlighted two new reports by the Department of Education, one showing that smaller classes lead to improved student achievement and the other showing that all states have now adopted legislation requiring students to be expelled if they bring a firearm to school.
REDUCING CLASS SIZE IN GRADES 1-3 TO NATIONWIDE AVERAGE OF 18. President Clinton transmitted legislation today to help local schools provide smaller classes with well-prepared teachers in the early grades. The initiative would provide $12.4 billion over 7 years to help make sure that every child receives personal attention, gets a solid foundation for further learning, and learns to read independently and well by the end of third grade. The initiative would reduce class size in grades 1-3 to a nationwide average of 18 by providing funds to help local school districts hire and pay the salaries of an additional 100,000 teachers. States would receive funds to boost teacher quality through teacher training, recruitment, and testing, and new teachers would be required to pass state competency tests.
NEW REPORT SHOWS THAT SMALL CLASSES MAKE A DIFFERENCE. The President announced a new Education Department report showing that reducing class size, especially in the early grades, leads to improved student achievement. According to the report -- which analyzed the data and findings from the most carefully designed research studies on class size -- the research shows that:
Smaller class size increases student achievement. The report found that reducing class size from substantially above 20 students per class to below 20 students leads to gains in student achievement with the performance of the average student moving from the 50th percentile to somewhere above the 60th percentile. According to studies, students from smaller classes in North Carolina, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Tennessee outperformed their peers in larger classes. According to a follow-up study, students from smaller classes in Tennessee continued to outperform their peers in all academic subjects even after returning to larger classes in the 4th grade. An analysis of data on 10,000 4th graders in 203 school districts and 10,000 8th graders in 182 school districts across the United States shows that students in smaller classes performed better in 4th grade and 8th grade than comparable students in larger classes. Smaller classes reduce discipline problems and increase instruction time for teachers. In Burke County, North Carolina, the percentage of classroom time devoted to instruction increased from 80 percent to 86 percent, while the time devoted to non-instructional activities such as discipline, decreased from 20 percent to 14 percent when class size was reduced. Students from Tennessee's STAR program worked harder and caused fewer discipline problems than students from larger classes even after the STAR students returned to large classrooms. Smaller classes with well-prepared teachers make a difference. Smaller classes would boost student achievement the most when teachers are prepared to teach well in these classes. A review of more than 100 research studies indicates that positive effects of smaller classes were more likely if teachers change their instructional methods and classroom procedures in the smaller classes. Class size reduction efforts resulting in student achievement gains in Wisconsin and North Carolina included a strong focus on professional development for teachers. Smaller classes make the greatest impact in the early grades, and for disadvantaged and minority students. The clearest evidence of positive effects of smaller classes on student performance are in the primary grades, particularly kindergarten through third grade. Research on class size reduction efforts in Tennessee, Indiana, Wisconsin, and North Carolina show clear academic gains for students in smaller classes through the third grade, while studies questioning the impact of class size have often focused on class size variation across all grade levels. The national study of 10,000 4th graders and 10,000 8th graders found the greatest impact of smaller classes on inner-city youth.
ENFORCING ZERO TOLERANCE FOR GUNS IN SCHOOLS. A report on the Gun-Free Schools Act issued by the Department of Education today indicates that all states have now passed legislation providing that students who bring firearms to school will be expelled for at least one year. Although most schools do not report serious crimes to law enforcement -- and less than 1% of students report ever bringing a gun to school -- this new report shows that more than 6,000 students were disciplined for bringing a firearm (i.e., handguns, rifles, bombs, etc.) to their schools during the 1996-1997 school year. Most of these cases involved handguns that were brought to high schools.
ENDORSEMENTS FROM MAJOR EDUCATION ORGANIZATIONS. Major education organizations say that the President's class size initiative is the kind of initiative that has the potential to make a real difference in raising the academic achievement of young Americans. These organizations include the American Association of School Administrators (AASA), the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), the Council of Great City Schools (CGCS), Federal Advocacy for California Education, the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE), the National Association of State Directors of Special Education, the National Education Association (NEA), the National Parent Teacher Association, the National School Boards Association (NSBA), NAACP, the National Association of School Psychologists, the International Reading Association (IRA), and the Executive Director of the Council of Scientific Society Presidents.