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 overview

  • Lowering the number of students per educator: Class size reduction efforts reduce the ratio of students to educators in a classroom. Elementary schools may reduce the student-to-educator ratio to improve student academic achievement.

  • Implemented in elementary schools, led by principals and administrators: Small elementary school classes are typically the result of efforts led by principals, school administrators, and school boards. These leaders can implement this approach universally across all classrooms or for specific classes or student groups, like English Language Learners or special education students. There are two general approaches to reducing student to educator ratios: increasing the number of classes or increasing the number of educators per class. Depending on which approach leaders choose, they may need to hire more teachers, physically redesign school spaces, or seek additional funding.

  • Intended to improve student educational experience: The goal of reducing class sizes is to increase the amount of one-on-one interaction between students and teachers and encourage students’ participation in class. Having fewer students in a classroom can also reduce the opportunities for students to be distracted by their peers and consequently lead to fewer discipline challenges, as well as make it easier for teachers to manage any behavioral issues that do arise.

  • Can be used for English Learners and special education: Small class sizes can make it possible for schools to provide stronger English Language Learner (ELL) and special education support. A teacher can lead an entire reduced-size classroom for students with these accommodations. Alternatively, adding ELL or special education instructors to a mainstream classroom can reduce the ratio of students to educators and allow for integrated support within an existing classroom.

Cost per Participant
Not available

Multiple studies with rigorous designs provide some evidence for small elementary school class sizes as a strategy for increasing academic achievement.

  • Maximize the effectiveness of small class sizes: Small class sizes have demonstrated the largest positive effects on achievement when implemented in the earliest grades, with low-income and low-achieving students, and when classes have 15-19 students. If school districts face budget constraints when reducing class sizes, they should prioritize reducing class sizes in schools where the change will have the greatest impact.

  • Adapt instructional practices for smaller class environments: The benefits of small elementary school classes are dependent on teachers shifting their instructional approach to fit a smaller class size. Teachers should emphasize individual attention in student-teacher interactions and take advantage of the increased opportunity for personalized instruction for each student.

  • Provide professional development and training for teachers: In order for teachers to effectively implement the best instructional practices when working with a smaller group of students, schools should provide in-depth training and professional development opportunities focused on classroom management, student interaction strategies, and lesson planning approaches. When student-teacher ratios are reduced by adding an additional educator to the classroom, professional development on “co-teaching” can be valuable.

  • Ensure sufficient space in school buildings: If smaller class sizes are accomplished by adding additional classes rather than adding educators to existing classrooms, the more classrooms and instructional spaces will be needed. When feasible, schools may remodel to create additional, distinct instructional space. As an alternative, schools should examine the possibility of repurposing non-classroom spaces (e.g., computer labs) for instructional use either on a temporary or permanent basis, as well as options to reconfigure classrooms using temporary barriers or space dividers.