Class-Size Reduction in California: A Story of Hope, Promise, and Unintended Consequences

by Brian M. Stecher, George Bohrnstedt, Michael Kirst, Joan McRobbie, Trish Williams

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Although the overall impact of class-size reduction (CSR) in California will not be known for several years, much as been learned that can inform national discussion of the topic. In July 1996, the California legislative approved SB 1777, an education reform initiative that allocated over $1 billion annually to a CSR scheme. Optimism among legislators, educators, and parents that smaller classes would rapidly yield improved education standards higher scores among the state's K-3 students on standardized tests meant that California implemented CSR quickly and enthusiastically. The slight increases in performance reported since CSR came into effect have been costly, however, aggravating existing inequities within the state's education system. The writers discuss the history and status of CSR in California, its results, and the lessons it offers.

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Originally published in: Phi Delta Kappan, v. 82, no. 9, May 2001, pp. 670-674.

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