NEPC Review: The Impact of a Universal Class-Size Reduction Policy: Evidence from Florida’s Statewide Mandate (May 2010)
In 2002, voters in Florida approved a constitutional amendment limiting class sizes in public schools to 18 students in the elementary grades, 22 students in middle grades, and 25 in high school grades. Analyzing statewide achievement data for school districts from 2004-2006 and for schools in 2007, this study purports to find that "mandated [class-size reduction] in Florida had little, if any, effect on cognitive and non-cognitive outcomes." The study has four flaws that, taken together, invalidate it as an evaluation of class-size reduction: 1) The data used are drawn from grades 3 and 4 to 8, where the likelihood of finding class size effects is small. 2) The differences in class sizes of two comparison groups (treated and untreated) range from about 0.5 to about 3.0 students, all too small to make a difference educationally. 3) School and district average class sizes are used in the analysis rather than the actual sizes of classes in which students were enrolled. 4) The comparison is between two sets of districts, both with small classes, differing only in whether state funding was used in a focused or general way. This study actually found that administrative discretion in spending state class-size reduction funds did not affect students’ academic performance.
Suggested Citation: Finn, J. (2010). Review of "The Impact of a Universal Class-Size Reduction Policy: Evidence from Florida’s Statewide Mandate." Boulder and Tempe: Education and the Public Interest Center & Education Policy Research Unit. Retrieved [date] from http://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/review-class-size-florida