Thursday, August 22, 2019
Student teacher ratio Essay Example for Free
Student teacher ratio Essay Introduction Policy makers nationwide, in the field of education, are concerned about the educational system, particularly with regards to the overall success of educational programs. Considerable research has suggested that, compared to their Asian and European counterparts, American students, especially at the secondary level, do not perform as well (Ehrenberg, Brewer, Gamoran Willms, 2001). Given the evidence in support of this observation, policy makers have set out to examine the weaknesses in the system so that improvements can be made in deficient areas. One of the issues that have continued to figure at the forefront of debates is the matter of the student-teacher ratio. Researchers are concerned about the potential effects it may have on student performance and achievement (Borland, Howsen Trawick, 2005, p. 73). Gursky in 1998 indicated that adjusting class size was probably the most Ã¢â¬Å"popular educational initiative across the country (p. 16). At that time school districts across the nation were seeking to implement mandated policies on the required size of classes. President Clinton, in that same year, demonstrated his commitment to improving educational programs when he proposed in his State of the Union address that $12 billion be invested over a seven year period into programs geared at reducing the class size in the lower grades. This, he suggested, would be accomplished through the hiring of about 100, 000 additional teachers (Gursky, 1998). President ClintonÃ¢â¬â¢s position reflects that held by some analysts in education who believe that increasing and improving inputs into the educational system is a useful way of impacting student performance. Inputs, on the part of administrators or government, are usually classified in terms of finances or resources. Adjusting the student-teacher ratio or government spending on education, for example, are some of the means by which policy makers have tackled the issue of student achievement (Lamdin, 1995). This is based on the hypothesis that student achievement, as measured by their performance on standardized instruments, is dependent on and determined by the resources invested into the educational institutions, the student-teacher ratio being one of the most important and noted investments (Graddy Stevens, 2005). Student achievement in these contexts is usually measured solely or primarily on the basis of performance on standardized test instruments. However student performance on tests is not the only way of determining achievement. Dustmann, Rajah van Soest (2003) examine achievement in a broader context. They consider that the decision to pursue further education after completing high school could be considered an aspect of student achievement. Therefore school continuation after completing high school could also be a measure of learning. This is, as the literature demonstrates, that individuals who pursue higher education and thereby obtain higher qualifications earn significantly more than individuals simply completing high school (Colorado Association, n. d. ). According to statistics reported by the U. S. Census Bureau in 2004 persons who drop out of high school earn, on average, $19, 169 annually, those graduating high school earn $28, 645, college graduates earn $51, 554 and those with advanced degrees earn $78, 093 (as cited in Colorado Association, n. d. ). Considerations on student achievement should therefore not be restricted to scores on standardized instruments but should take into other factors which demonstrate, in the long run, that the educational system has been of benefit to the student. It is therefore not strange that policy makers wish to improve student performance. The option of reducing class sizes is probably, indeed, one of the most popular governmental initiatives geared at impacting student performance. By reducing class sizes the government is able to increase the resources available to individual schools and districts (Dustmann et al. , 2003, p. F99). Thus, the rationale for reducing class size, according to researchers, is that it is a tool for school improvement. Governments have tended to adopt this strategy because, according to Dustmann (2003), these programs are visible to voters and comparatively easy to implement and not necessarily based on research which demonstrates that this strategy is indeed effective in improving student performance. Though much research has gone into the issue it is still debated whether or not the student-teacher ratio shares a direct relationship with student performance. Not only in the United States but also in the United Kingdom the supporting arguments from either side are equally as weighty (Graddy Stevens, 2005) and it is still disputed whether or not reducing class sizes has a noticeable effect on student achievement (Dustmann et al. , 2003, p. F99). The merits of smaller classes There are many arguments put forward that a smaller class size is more beneficial. Among the arguments some propose that smaller classes are better in terms of discipline (Gursky, 1998). Having fewer students in the classroom means that there will be less noise and also a less disruptive behavior (Ehrenberg, Brewer, Gamoran Willms, 2001). Another argument put forward for smaller class sizes is that the teacher has greater opportunities to provide individualized instruction for the students in the classroom (Gursky, 1998). In this way teachers can provided needed assistance to struggling students as there is less demand on his/her time due to the lower number of pupils. Teachers are in a better position to familiarize themselves with all the students in the class in order to develop a greater understanding of their strengths, weaknesses, challenges, learning styles etcetera, and make the necessary accommodations to ensure each child is successful in the regular classroom. Instructional variety has been one of those topics that have been heavily debated, especially given that more and more culturally diverse students are entering the classroom. With the new mandates under the No Child Left Behind policy all students are expected to perform to the same level at the end of the year, regardless of learning, cognitive or other difficulties. In a smaller classroom the teacher is able to manipulate stimulus material to gain the interest of the cross section of pupils, adopt varied teaching strategies, provide for greater in-class interaction of pupils and overall free up time for the teacher to complete activities in the classroom that are often constrained because of time and class size (Ehrenberg, 2001). The benefits of smaller classrooms thus illuminated seem overwhelming. However, considering that research has not been conducted to justify these claims they are really superfluous (Ehrenberg et al. , 2001). Until a consensus has been made on the place of smaller class sizes in the educational system, it is hasty to matter-of-factly say that these benefits are automatic with smaller classes and reduced student-teacher ratios.