What is the Ideal Class Size and Student-Teacher Ratio and Why is it Important to Your Child?

Classroom with Small class size and student-teacher ratioWhile it goes without saying that we all want our children to receive individual attention from teachers, is it really necessary? Do children learn just as effectively when placed in classrooms bustling with peers, or are there social and cognitive benefits from smaller group sizes? Does the student-teacher ratio really matter in early childhood education?

Two words answer all of those questions. It matters.

Moreover, it matters a lot.

What Are Class Sizes and the Student-Teacher Ratio?

Class size refers to the number of children learning in one space at one time. In traditional, early childhood programs, class sizes often range from six children to 30. Having a mere six children is usually afforded only to infant classrooms, while classes with 30 kids are typically reserved for pre-K students.

Student-Teacher Ratio refers to the number of children in a classroom compared to the number of instructional staff. For instance, if there are six children and one teacher, the student-teacher ratio is 6:1.

Benefits of Small Class Sizes and Student-Teacher Ratios

Reducing the number of children in a classroom does not automatically translate into improved learning. To benefit the most from reduced class sizes and student-teacher ratios, teachers need to adjust their teaching methods and provide more frequent feedback and one-to-one interaction.

That said, educators that are adept at teaching in close-knit communities of children report far better outcomes than those in larger group settings. Long-term studies confirm these gains.

Improved Relationships

The one-to-one student-teacher ratio results in improved relationships.When there is a smaller student-teacher ratio, teachers have more opportunities for individual interaction with each child. Such interactions between staff and children usher in many benefits, namely more positive adult-child relationships and a greater ability to tailor instruction that meets each child’s needs.

The impact of this is best summarized in Eager to Learn: Educating Our Preschoolers, which states that the relationship between caregivers and children may be the “single critical component” of quality care.

Greater Cognitive Outcomes

Numerous studies that examine the cognitive effects of class sizes and student-teacher ratios demonstrate a significant improvement in classes with fewer numbers. When looking at direct assessments, as well as teacher and parent reports, research shows that preschool-age children in small groups have greater gains in vocabulary, letter recognition, pre-literacy capacity, early math skills, and spatial reasoning.

Better Social-Emotional Results

Small groups encourage more positive social interactions by allowing children consistent opportunities to interact with a limited number of children. Small groups help children feel safe, confident, and autonomous. They also facilitate classroom rituals, such as sitting in a circle and lining up at the door, that help young people feel included and emotionally anchored.

Reduced Behavior CorrectionSmaller class sizes and student-teacher ratios result in fewer behavioral corrections

Preschool-age children have had very little time to navigate their world. They haven’t learned the mores and expectations adults set forth, nor do they understand where they fit into the big picture. As such, they constantly push limits and test boundaries.

In a classroom of 20 children, such (expected) behaviors can quickly manifest into chaos. When one child falls, so do five others. This domino effect can have a huge impact on learning and comfort, as it is a distraction that warrants the teacher’s attention yet provides little benefit to the overall classroom.

Having a smaller class size and student-teacher ratio is not the golden ticket to a program’s success. As one of several important pieces, however, it plays a critical role in the physical, intellectual, emotional, and social development of children – one that those of us at Kids Harbor treasure immensely.

Parent Resources

At Kids Harbor, we’ve optimized our child and teacher interaction with smaller student-teacher ratios:  

  • Infants & Crawlers 1:6
  • Toddlers 1:8
  • Twos 1:10
  • Threes 1:15
  • Georgia Pre-K  2:22

For more on each school:

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