School Size Matters

The short two-sentence version is that large schools are alienating for kids, and kids who are marginalized already will suffer from larger schools. Small schools do a better job of teaching kids and connecting families.  Want to know more?  Here’s the research. 

Pedagogical Effects of School Size & Grade Size

  • Negative effects of large schools on kids with disabilities and socioeconomically disadvantaged kids: Gershenson & Langbein, 2015, discussed here ; paper on file with SASS.
  • Howley, Craig, Marty Strange, and Robert Bickel. “Research about School Size and School Performance in Impoverished Communities. ERIC Digest.” ERIC Publications, December 2000.;
  • Jimerson, Lorna. The Hobbit Effect: Why Small Works in Public Schools. Rural Trust Policy Brief Series on Rural Education. Rural School and Community Trust, 2006.
  • It is worth noting that several researchers define school size by grade size. Grouping large numbers of students into a single institution, even when they are grouped into teams or schools within schools, increases the peer group and reduces the depth of relationships, sense of community, between students and between teachers and students within the cohort. See for example Howley, Craig B. “Grade-Span Configurations.” School Administrator 59, no. 3 (March 2002): 24. Also students in large campuses, even when split into smaller teams, share single campus resources like playgrounds and sports fields, as well as, perhaps, library, cafeteria, and gym. Parents, teachers and buses share a larger and/or more crowded parking lot, and time windows during drop-off / pick-up.
  • A smaller grade-level group with multiple-grade continuity provides students with a small community of diverse classmates in which students and families get to know a relatively small peer group deeply over time. This builds deep familiarity, and everyday inclusion, understanding and acceptance. See for example Grauer, Stuart R. “Small Versus Large Schools: The Truth About Equity, Cost, and Diversity of Programming in Small and Large Schools.” Community Works Journal—Online Magazine for Educators.