New Report Again Touts Success of SAGE
The latest evaluation of Wisconsins SAGE class-size
reduction program provides more hard evidence that the program is improving
the academic success of children in early grades.
The annual report, released Monday (January 21, 2002),
found that students in smaller classes show greater academic gains than
students in larger classes.
"When teachers have fewer
students in a classroom, they can provide the kind of individualized
instruction that can make the difference between a child's success
Wisconsin's Student Achievement Guarantee in Education
(SAGE) program provides state funding to reduce class sizes in kindergarten
through third grade in schools with large numbers of children from low-income
households. SAGE classrooms have a student-teacher ratio of 15 to 1, which
is significantly better than many elementary classrooms, which sometimes
exceed 30 students.
First implemented in 1996-'97 in 30 schools, SAGE has
steadily grown in size. The 2000-'01 evaluation focused on 1,542 3rd-grade
students in 93 participating classrooms.
The annual study is required by the state to measure
the program's success. It is directed by Professor Alex Molnar, formerly
of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and a team of researchers from
UWM. Molnar currently directs the Education Policy Studies Laboratory
at Arizona State University. To measure academic achievement, 3rd-grade
students in SAGE schools and in a group of comparison schools were administered
the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills in the spring of 2001.
In addition to testing students, SAGE evaluators also conducted interviews
and observations in selected 2nd- and 3rd-grade classrooms and administered
questionnaires to teachers and principals in all SAGE schools.
In analyzing the findings, the evaluators concluded:
- "The major effect of reduced class size is increased individualization."
With fewer students, teachers can better attend to the needs of individual
students. Smaller classes, the evaluators concluded, allow more time
for instruction and require less time for discipline. They also contribute
to greater teacher enthusiasm for their work.
- Increased individualization comes in three forms: improved one-on-one
teacher-student interaction; improved small-group tutoring; and improved
total class teaching.
- Even where class sizes are reduced, some teachers are more effective
in raising achievement than others. Teachers in higher-achieving classrooms
"emphasize the acquisition of basic knowledge and skills, mostly
through the use of explicit instruction." These teachers use a
structured classroom style with rules and routines and carefully planned
and paced lessons. Teachers in lower-achieving classrooms tended to
use more permissive student management techniques, and their lessons
appeared to be less carefully planned.
WEAC President Stan Johnson said the report reinforces past research
demonstrating the importance of smaller classes in the early grades.
"When teachers have fewer students in a classroom, they can provide
the kind of individualized instruction that can make the difference between
a child's success and failure," Johnson said. "SAGE is one of
the many reasons that Wisconsin schools are great schools. It places children
in classrooms that work by giving teachers the resources they need to
help children succeed."
The SAGE evaluation is available on the Education Policy Studies Laboratory
Web site at www.educationanalysis.org.
Resource page on SAGE and class-size
Posted January 21, 2002