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Ask A REL Response

October 2020


What research has been conducted on class size reduction at the middle school level and benefits for minority students?


Following an established REL Southeast research protocol, we conducted a search for research reports as well as descriptive study articles on class size reduction at the middle school level and benefits for minority students. We focused on identifying resources that specifically addressed class size reduction at the middle school level and benefits for minority students. The sources included ERIC and other federally funded databases and organizations, research institutions, academic research databases, and general Internet search engines (For details, please see the methods section at the end of this memo.)

We have not evaluated the quality of references and the resources provided in this response. We offer them only for your reference. These references are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance. Also, we searched the references in the response from the most commonly used resources of research, but they are not comprehensive and other relevant references and resources may exist."

Research References

  1. Chingos, M. M. (2012). The impact of a universal class-size reduction policy: Evidence from Florida's statewide mandate. Economics of Education Review, 31(5), 54-562.
    From the abstract: "Class-size reduction (CSR) mandates presuppose that resources provided to reduce class size will have a larger impact on student outcomes than resources that districts can spend as they see fit. I estimate the impact of Florida's statewide CSR policy by comparing the deviations from prior achievement trends in districts that were required to reduce class size to deviations from prior trends in districts that received equivalent resources but were not required to reduce class size. I use the same comparative interrupted time series design to compare schools that were differentially affected by the policy (in terms of whether they had to reduce class size) but that did not receive equal additional resources. The results from both the district- and school-level analyses indicate that mandated CSR in Florida had little, if any, effect on student achievement. (Contains 16 tables and 2 figures.)"
  2. Dee, T. S., & West, M. R. (2011) The non-cognitive returns to class size. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 33(1), 23-46.
    From the abstract: "The authors use nationally representative survey data and a research design that relies on contemporaneous within-student and within-teacher comparisons across two academic subjects to estimate how class size affects certain non-cognitive skills in middle school. Their results indicate that smaller eighth-grade classes are associated with improvements in several measures of school engagement, with effect sizes ranging from 0.05 to 0.09 and smaller effects persisting 2 years later. Patterns of selection on observed traits and falsification exercises suggest that these results accurately identify (or possibly understate) the causal effects of smaller classes. Given the estimated earnings impact of these non-cognitive skills, the implied internal rate of return from an eighth-grade class-size reduction is 4.6% overall, but 7.9% in urban schools. (Contains 15 notes, 10 tables, and 2 figures.)"
  3. Konstantopoulos, S., & Shen, T. (2016). Class size effects on mathematics achievement in Cyprus: Evidence from TIMSS. Educational Research and Evaluation, 22(1-2), 86-109.
    From the abstract: "Class size reduction has been viewed as one school mechanism that can improve student achievement. Nonetheless, the literature has reported mixed findings about class size effects. We used 4th- and 8th-grade data from TIMSS 2003 and 2007 to examine the association between class size and mathematics achievement in public schools in Cyprus. We employ instrumental variables methods, and take advantage of a regression discontinuity design to examine causal effects of class size on mathematics achievement. The results indicate a non-significant relationship between class size and mathematics achievement in 8th grades. However, there is evidence of positive class size effects in 4th grade. The gender gap is significant and favoured males in 4th grade and females in 8th grade. SES indexes such as parental education and items in the home are positively and significantly related to mathematics achievement. Teacher and school variables are not significantly related with mathematics achievement."
  4. Nandrup, A. B. (2016). Do class size effects differ across grades? (2016). Education Economics, 24(1), 83-95.
    From the abstract: "This paper contributes to the class size literature by analysing whether short-run class size effects are constant across grade levels in compulsory school. Results are based on administrative data on all pupils enrolled in Danish public schools. Identification is based on a government-imposed class size cap that creates exogenous variation in class sizes. Significant (albeit modest) negative effects of class size increases are found for children at primary school levels. The effects on math achievement are statistically different across grade levels. Larger classes do not affect girls, non-Western immigrants and socioeconomically disadvantaged pupils more adversely than other pupils."
  5. Salgado, R., Mundy, M., Kupczynski, L., & Challoo, L (2018). Effects of teacher efficacy, certification route, content hours, experiences and class size on student achievement. Journal of Instructional Pedagogies, 21.
    From the abstract: "The purpose of this study was to determine the effects of teacher efficacy, the type of certification route taken by individuals, the number of content hours taken in the sciences, field-based experience and class size on middle school student achievement as measured by the 8th grade STAAR in a region located in South Texas. This data provides knowledge into the effect different teacher training methods on secondary school science teacher efficacy in Texas and how that impacts student achievement. Additionally, the results of this study determined if traditional and alternative certification programs are equally effective in properly preparing science teachers for the classroom."
  6. Tienken, C. H.; Achilles, C. M. (2006). Making class size work in the middle grades. AASA Journal of Scholarship and Practice, 3(1) 26-36.
    From the abstract: "Most research on the positive effects of class-size reduction (CSR) has occurred in the elementary level (Word, Johnston, Bain, Fulton, Zaharias, Lintz, Achilles, Folger, & Breda, 1990; Molnar, Smith, Zahorik, Palmer, Halbach, & Ehrle, 1999). Is CSR an important variable in improving education in the middle grades? Can small classes be achieved in the middle grades at reasonable costs? This article provides an overview of a three-year initiative (2001-2004) to lower class sizes in a middle school through structural changes. Based on initial pre- and post-test data, the process and student outcomes have been positive. All improvements occurred at no added cost. (Contains 5 tables.)"


Keywords and Search Strings
The following keywords and search strings were used to search the reference databases and other sources:

  • Middle school, class size reduction, minority students
  • Class size reduction, minority student achievement, middle school students
  • Middle schools, class size, Hispanic student achievement
  • Middle school, class size reduction, Black student achievement
  • Class size, middle school, Latino students

Databases and Resources
We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of over 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences. Additionally, we searched Google Scholar and PsychInfo.

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When we were searching and reviewing resources, we considered the following criteria:

  • Date of the publication: References and resources published for last 15 years, from 2003 to present, were include in the search and review.
  • Search Priorities of Reference Sources: Search priority is given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published and/or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations, academic databases, including ERIC, EBSCO databases, JSTOR database, PsychInfo, PsychArticle, and Google Scholar.
  • Methodology: Following methodological priorities/considerations were given in the review and selection of the references: (a) study types - randomized control trials,, quasi experiments, surveys, descriptive data analyses, literature reviews, policy briefs, etc., generally in this order (b) target population, samples (representativeness of the target population, sample size, volunteered or randomly selected, etc.), study duration, etc. (c) limitations, generalizability of the findings and conclusions, etc.

This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by educational stakeholders in the Southeast Region (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, and South Carolina), which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory Southeast at Florida State University. This memorandum was prepared by REL Southeast under a contract with the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Contract ED-IES-17-C-0011, administered by Florida State University. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.