Thursday, August 13, 2009

Size Does Matter - At Least in the Classroom!

The old argument about classrooms finally has research proof that size does matter. The Homeschool Legal Defense Association just published their latest research on how homeschooled children compare with traditionally schooled kids and there is no surprise, homeschoolers performed 37% better on standardized tests. So a classroom size of 1-5 children (even if their ages and grade levels are all different) is better than classroom sizes of 20-30. And the reason is in my humble opinion is that with a smaller classroom size, the teacher is better able to adapt the teaching method and pace to the student as they have fewer students to evaluate and learn what the best approach is for each student and then to implement that teaching style at exactly the right pace. I don't think there would be enough time in the school year to evaluate 20-30 students for learning style or pace and then to develop a teaching style to address each one, not to mention the implementation of many different teaching styles delivered at exactly the right pace for each individual.

So these levels of improved performance results might explain why homeschooling continues to grow at a 7% annual rate accounting for about 1.5 million of today's school age students. The Department of Education also estimates that an additional 1.5 million students are receiving remedial or supplemental education using traditional homeschool approaches to augment their public or private school lessons.

What's the bottomline? Again, no surprises, to improve a student's performance in school, parental involvment is key, only because it isn't financially feasible for public or even private schools to go down to classroom sizes that approximate homeschool classes (1-5 kids). However full-time homeschooling may not be an option for many families who can't devote their entire day to teaching and educating their kids.

These parents may want to consider augmenting their more traditional approach with homeschooling activities that include direct parental involvement for the evaluation, identification of learning styles, adoption of a methodology that matches the student's learning style and pace and then the delivery of that program with guidance, praise, direction and participation by the parent. There isn't any magic formula, just paying attention and being involved enough to act on what you observe to turn it into improved performance for both the parent and the child.

The even more amazing thing is that the cost of homeschooling was found to be only 5% of the cost per student in public education ($500 versus $10,000 per student) but of course this doesn't include the opportunity cost of the parent who is not able to work a full-time job and homeschool. However about 20% of homeschooling parents do hold a full or part time job with nearly 85% of those being part time. One thing that is nearly universal is the existance of a computer in the home for homeschoolers (98.3%) as technology is one way to improve the experience and the delivery in both learning style and pace. Again the cost of the computer and Internet access is normally not considered in the $500 cost above as it is typically an appliance available in most households today.

Compelling research, results with serious implications and food for thought for all parents that care about their children's education.