Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday March 28, 2019
Fact-checking Lisa Thompson’s controversial comments on class size in Ontario
Bigger class sizes make students more resilient.
That was just one of several eyebrow-raising claims that Ontario Education Minister Lisa Thompson made during an interview last week. Her comments quickly provoked a deluge of criticism from many members of the public, educators and the opposition parties.
In an interview with CBC Radio’s Metro Morning, Thompson said that businesses and post-secondary educators relayed to her during recent consultations that students are “lacking coping skills and they’re lacking resiliency.
“By increasing class sizes in high school, we’re preparing them for the reality of post-secondary as well as the world of work.”
Thompson was defending the government’s recent decision to increase high school class sizes in the province from 22 students to 28. Since that’s a board-wide average, some classes — especially important pre-requisites — could swell to as many as 38 or 40 students, educators have warned.
Grades 4 to 8 will see a more moderate average increase of one student per class, while earlier grades will remain the same.
So does the government’s plan make sense? CBC Toronto took a deeper look.
The impact of class size on students has been debated for decades, both in the halls of academia and among policymakers. Numerous studies, conducted worldwide, have produced varied results.
Generally, there is scholarly consensus that smaller class sizes improve academic achievement, particularly among vulnerable student populations. But the extent, scope and ultimate value of those improvements is limited, and the benefits diminish as students get older. And it is far from a magic bullet.
In her interview, Thompson said: “The biggest factor in student success is actually how effective the teacher is” — and there is research that supports this assertion when it comes to high school-aged children. (Source: CBC)