Are crowded classes detrimental to your child's learning?

SEATTLE -- Class size has been at the center of three recent contract negotiations between teachers in the Snoqualmie Valley and South Kitsap school districts.

“The key issue here in Washington state is that we rank 47th in the U.S. in terms of our teacher/student ratio. That's crazy we're at the bottom of the list,” education writer Alison Krupnick said.

But is overcrowding detrimental to learning? Krupnick, who works with Parent Map magazine, said it can be.

“The research on class size shows in the lower grades, students benefit from small class sizes. Also, students from disadvantaged backgrounds benefit from small class size, and all students benefit if there's a big reduction in class size,” she said.

The Student Teacher Achievement Ratio, or STAR, study done in Tennessee compared learning in a class of 15 kids versus 22. The study found students in the smaller class scored higher on standardized test scores.

In the Snoqualmie Valley School District, target caps were placed for grades K-5 with 26 to 30 students, depending on grade level. If classes exceed that, teachers will be paid more. In South Kitsap, the district agreed to reduce class sizes over the next three years.

But experts also say the number of kids in one classroom isn't the only thing that can affect student performance.

“You can't look at class size alone -- it's one of many factors that impact student learning. Everybody agrees the most important factor is an effective teacher, but home life and parent support also comes into play,” Krupnick said.

In Seattle, increasing class sizes was taken off the table during contract negotiations after teachers protested. In February, voters passed a capitol levy that will cover construction and renovation of schools to handle the expected increase in enrollment over the next five years.