Here we collect research generally about small schools, large schools, and related issues. This is NOT information specific to Amherst.
A full running annotated bibliography of our research is available for those who want to dive into the research in detail.
Below, we have included some highlights. Where possible, we have linked to a version of the paper online. If not available online, we should have copies on file; please contact SASS at AmherstSASS@gmail.com.
School Size – Pedagogical Effects
The short two-sentence version is that large schools are alienating for kids, and the most vulnerable kids are the ones that suffer most from larger schools. Small schools do a better job of teaching kids and connecting families. Want to know more? Here’s the research : School Size Matters.
Transitions Hurt Kids
Transitions from school to school hurt kids’ academic performance, especially in the elementary level. The proposed reconfiguration adds another transition to our kids’ elementary years, on top of pre-K to kindergarten, and may add another if the “graded wings” model is chosen.
Want to know more? Here’s the research : Transitions Hurt Kids..
Amherst families love their neighborhood schools. The kids who go to the schools benefit, and the community benefits by having the schools, playgrounds, playing fields, and other resources geographically dispersed. Want to know more? Here’s the research : Neighborhood Schools Benefit Both Neighborhoods and Schools.
Costs are a real driver in Amherst as in the rest of the country. There’s no question that, annually, it is cheaper to maintain one building than two. But that’s only part of the ultimate costs, and to get a true picture you have to look not just at the annual utilities and janitorial staff costs, but transportation costs, costs and benefits of distributed versus centralized resources, and numerous other factors. Here’s the research.
Want an overview of the research?
Review articles and reports summarize and analyze existing research. To get a quick overview of the findings (spoiler alert: smaller schools are better for kids), check one or more of these sources:
- Debra Heath (2006), “The Significance of Elementary School Size: Literature Review” (PDF)
- A 2-page brief review of literature.
- Leithwood, Kenneth, and Doris Jantzi. “A Review of Empirical Evidence About School Size Effects: A Policy Perspective.” Review of Educational Research 79, no. 1 (March 1, 2009): 464–90. doi:10.3102/0034654308326158. (PDF)
- A lengthy review article examining 57 empirical studies of school size effects; the weight of evidence clearly favors smaller schools. This is especially true of schools with large proportions of students from disadvantaged social and economic backgrounds.
- Ready, Douglas, Valerie Lee, and Kevin Welner. “Educational Equity and School Structure: School Size, Overcrowding, and Schools-within-Schools.” The Teachers College Record 106, no. 10 (2004): 1989–2014. (link)
- Reviews multiple studies and their own original research. They find that small schools are usually helpful to minority and lower SES students.
- Seth Gershenson & Laura Langbein, “The Effect of Primary School Size on Academic Achievement”, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, v.37, n. 1S, pp. 135S-155S (May 2015). doi: 10.3102/0162373715576075. (PDF)
- A recent review article showing that socioeconomically disadvantaged students and students with learning disabilities are particularly harmed by larger school sizes.