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International Handbook on the Economics of Education

Edited by Geraint Johnes and Jill Johnes

This major Handbook comprehensively surveys the rapidly growing field of the economics of education. It is unique in that it comprises original contributions on an exceptional range of topics from a review of human capital, signalling and screening models, to consideration of issues such as educational externalities and economic growth, funding models, determinants of educational success, the educational production function, educational standards and efficiency measurement. Labour market issues such as the market for teachers and the transition of students from school to work are also explored.
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Chapter 9: Exploring the Effect of Class Size on Student Achievement: What Have We Learned Over the Past Two Decades?

Susan L. Averett and Michele C. McLennan


9 Exploring the effect of class size on student achievement: what have we learned over the past two decades? Susan L. Averett and Michele C. McLennan Introduction Parents and educators almost universally identify small classes as a desirable attribute of successful school systems and class size reduction initiatives have been implemented widely.1 Despite this and decades of study, researchers remain divided on whether smaller classes actually have positive effects on student outcomes and/or whether the magnitude of the effect justifies the high cost of implementing class size reductions. In fact, a larger debate focuses on whether increasing resources to schools in any way improves student outcomes. This discussion is being carried out throughout the world, with somewhat different frameworks between developed and developing countries. In developed countries, where access to primary and secondary education is essentially universal but the quality of education is varied, researchers are concerned with identifying specific treatments to improve student outcomes, such as reducing class size, increasing teacher salaries or expanding teacher education. Developing countries are often still dealing with the tradeoff between increasing access to education and improving the quality of existing education. Improving quality in this context can mean providing textbooks and adequate facilities, more fundamental needs than are the focus in the developed world. In this chapter we will consider the value of class size reductions in both contexts with a focus on the developed world. We focus our review on those studies that have examined the...

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