St. James likes to keep the student to teacher ratio very low. Currently, it is a 14:1, student to teacher ratio, which is very low.
What defines a "small class"?
Researchers have found that gains in achievement generally occur when class size is reduced to less than 20 students.
What are the benefits of small classes?
Numerous studies have been done to assess the impact of class size reduction. Studies over a period of years have pointed to a number of trends as a result of lowering class size:
- Gains associated with small classes generally appear when the class size is reduced to less than 20 students.
- Gains associated with small classes are stronger for the early grades.
- Gains are stronger for students who come from groups that are traditionally disadvantaged in education — minorities and immigrants.
- Gains from class size reduction in the early grades continue for students in the upper grades. Students are less likely to be retained, more likely to stay in school and more likely to earn better grades.
- Academic gains are not the only benefit of lowering class size. A recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health revealed that reducing class sizes in elementary schools may be more cost-effective than most public health and medical interventions. This is because students in smaller classes are more likely to graduate from high school, and high school graduates earn more and also enjoy significantly better health than high school dropouts.
Why does reducing class size in the early grades have a positive effect?
Education researchers suspect that class size reduction in the early grades helps students achieve because there is a greater opportunity for individual interaction between student and teacher in a small class. Teachers generally have better morale in a small class, too, and are less likely to feel overwhelmed by having a variety of students with different backgrounds and achievement levels. As a result, they are more likely to provide a supportive environment. One researcher, Frederick Mosteller notes "Reducing [the size of classes in the early grades] reduces the distractions in the room and gives the teacher more time to devote to each child."
In the early grades, students are just beginning to learn about the rules of the classroom, and they are figuring out if they can cope with the expectations of education. If they have more opportunity to interact with their teacher, they are more apt to feel like they can cope.
This theory would also explain why lowering class size in the upper grades may not have the same effect on achievement. Students in the upper grades, who may not have had the benefits of a small class in the early years, have already formed their habits, good and bad, for coping with their classroom environment.
The research is there. Class size matters. Even the finest teachers are limited in what they can do when they have large classes.
How important is school size?
School size may be as important as class size in influencing student behavior. An April 2000 report by North Carolina’s State Board of Education on the relationship between school size and student achievement and behavior summed up the research in this area nicely. For elementary school students, there’s an inverse relationship between school size and student achievement: smaller elementary schools are associated with higher achievement.