Small elementary school classes

Local governments can invest in this strategy using State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).
  • This strategy can help address educational disparities. The U.S. Department of Treasury has indicated that strategies that help achieve this outcome are eligible for the use of Fiscal Recovery Funds.
  • Investments in this strategy are SLFRF-eligible as long as they are made in qualified census tracts or are designed to assist populations or communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

Program basics

  • Seeks to reduce the ratio of students to educators in a classroom

Strength of evidence

Evidence level: Promising (Third-highest tier)

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Promising (Third-highest tier)

Ranked as having the second-highest level of evidence by County Health Rankings and Roadmaps


Target population

Elementary school-aged children

Program cost

Not available

Implementation locations

  • Nationwide

Dates active

Not available

Outcomes and impact

  • Some evidence that smaller class sizes create small improvements in academic outcomes, particularly in kindergarten and first grade
  • Benefits appear greater for students who are struggling in school
  • Gaps between high-performing and low-performing students appear lower in smaller classes
  • Evidence that improvements in reading skills among minority students persist for at least five years
  • Small classes may improve graduation rates for low-income children, particularly for children in third grade
  • Class size reduction efforts appear more likely to have positive impact when accompanied by teaching techniques specially designed for smaller classes

Keys to successful implementation

  • Note: This content is under review
  • Reduce class sizes to between 15 and 19 students; studies have proved this size range to be the most effective in improving student learning.
  • Implement small class sizes early and continue to implement small classes as students progress through grade school.
  • Implement a rigorous curriculum and after school programs in order to accelerate the positive effects of smaller class sizes.
  • Facility constraints often hamper efforts to reduce class sizes. Maximize space in existing buildings, potentially by remodeling existing school buildings to contain a greater number of small rooms.
  • Repurpose infrequently-used spaces, like theaters and libraries, to maximize classroom space.
  • Provide English Language Learning and special education programming within a small-class context rather than pulling students out of class.
  • Train teachers to use assessment data to improve student achievement in a small class context.

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Resources