I'm short on time today, so I'm allowing Mike Petrilli to do my thinking for me. He asks a very good question:
"Will teachers ever think their classes are small enough?" (to which his answer is "Doubtful.")
When I was teaching, my classes ranged from 23-29 students over the course of the year (due to student mobility). And, yes, I thought they were too large -- if for no other reason than because it was quite difficult to effectively monitor that many students at the same time. I was pretty convinced that my classes would have been fundamentally different if I had 10-15 students.
I don't know of any feasible way to fund a 50% reduction in class size, but let's say it happened. If I were teaching a class of, say, 13 students would I think that my class was small enough? I'm not sure what the answer to that question is. I have little doubt that I could teach 13 students more effectively than 26, but I also have little doubt that I could teach 6 or 7 students more effectively than 13 -- so I'm not sure I'd have a strong incentive to think my classes were small enough even with only 13 students. Even if I had two students, I'm not sure that I would say that my class was small enough because I might be able to do a lot more good with only one of the students at a time.
So maybe he's right, maybe teachers would never say that classes were small enough.
But maybe that's not quite the right question. I can't imagine not wishing for fewer students in my class, but I can imagine thinking that other policy ideas would do more good than reducing class sizes. Let's say, for example, that somebody provided me a list of 10 reforms and asked me to rank them in order of which reforms might do the most amount of good. I could imagine "reducing class size" falling down that list as the size of my class shrunk.
Then again, my perception of the size of my class would probably rely largely on the size of other classes that I saw and experienced. If I had 13 students and the average class size in the country was 8, I'd probably still complain.
Anyway, enough rambling. Back to the question. At what point would class sizes be small enough?