"SchoolMatch Analyzes High School Pupil/teacher ratios." By William L. Bainbridge. USA Today. December 21, 2002.

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December 23, 2002

Scores unrelated to pupil-teacher ratio

The number of students per teacher in high school seems to have little effect on how well students score on two important college entrance exams, an education research service says. SchoolMatch, based in Columbus, Ohio, compared pupil-teacher ratios with SAT and ACT scores in nearly
13,000 high schools and found that schools with more students per teacher had just as many
students among the top scorers as schools that had smaller ratios. SchoolMatch counted all certificated personnel, including teachers of non-academic subjects. It looked only at schoolwide pupil-teacher ratios and not class size, but class size is often affected by pupil-teacher ratio. Previous research has shown a clear link between small classes in elementary schools and better performance on standardized tests.



News Release

From: http://schoolmatch.com

Contact: William L. Bainbridge

Date: December 21, 2002

SchoolMatch Analyzes High School Pupil/teacher ratios


There appears to be no significant relationship between pupil/teacher ratios at the high school level and pupil performance on the important SAT and ACT scholarship examinations. An examination of pupil/teacher ratios and pupil performance on scholarship examinations (PPSE) in 12,916 high schools nationwide (Table) by the Columbus, Ohio-based educational research firm, SchoolMatch®, shows no distinct pattern indicating that pupil/teacher ratios at the secondary school level tend to make a difference on student performance.

When pupil/teacher ratios are less than 13 students per teacher, this comprehensive review, the first of its kind, actually suggests lower scores in high schools with extremely low pupil/teacher ratios, according to Kathryn Bailey Bleimes, SchoolMatch Chief Information Officer. "The data distribution of high schools with pupil/teacher ratios less than thirteen pupils per teacher may be a result of the nature of small high schools, many of which are in extremely remote areas of the country." she said.

The majority of the high schools examined had an average of 13 to 19 students per teacher. "Here, too, there appears to be no relationship between low pupil/teacher ratios and high student performance on college entrance examinations," said Steven M. Sundre, Ph.D., SchoolMatch Executive Vice President. "The same is found to be true in the 19 to 22, 22 to 25 and greater than 25 student-per-teacher situations. There simply appears to be no positive relationship between small classes and student success on college entrance examinations.

SchoolMatch consultants have long been proponents of small pupil/teacher ratios in the primary grades when human brain growth and development are at their maximum. Based on this analysis and field observations, we are hard-pressed to take the same position on secondary school pupil/teacher ratios, the area where the bulk of funds are being spent on public K-12 education," Sundre said.

"We thought it important to use the resource of our comprehensive databases on American public schools to examine this issue, since roughly 90 percent of the operating funds of public schools are spent on staff commitments. Nothing has a greater impact upon a school system’s budget than low pupil/teacher ratios which translate into salaries and fringe benefits," said William L. Bainbridge, Ph.D., SchoolMatch President. For budgetary purposes, pupil/teacher ratio is an important measure of resources as compared to outcomes.

"Since the mid-1980’s, efforts to reduce pupil/teacher ratios have been at the forefront of discussions about elementary and secondary education," Bainbridge said. "Our examination of commitments to lower pupil/teacher ratios in the primary grades leads to the conclusion that some of this is paying off," he said. "This is a study of pupil/teacher ratios, not ‘class size.’ Class size is determined by the number of students regularly in a teacher’s classroom for whom the teacher is responsible. On the other hand, pupil/teacher ratio, which we reviewed, is the number of students in a school and the number of full-time-equivalent professionals assigned to that school."

A number of significant studies have indicated misapplication of research on pupil/teacher ratio reduction programs in the United States. Jeremy D. Finn, Professor in the Graduate School of Education at the State University of New York, Buffalo, wrote in the March, 2002, PHI DELTA KAPPAN, that "on-going programs provide the opportunity for continued research on pupil/teacher ratio - work that is badly needed. Educators working in settings where pupil/teacher ratios are reduced should encourage the administrators to engage in formative evaluation and research - for their benefit and for the benefit of the broader education community."

Other class size studies have been conducted by researchers at the University of Chicago, University of Missouri, Arizona State University, Eastern Michigan University, Wayne State University, Ferris State University, Tennessee State University, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the Rand Corporation, George Mason University, Texas A&M University. None of these studies have reviewed such large numbers of schools as the current SchoolMatch effort.

Jessica O’Connell and Stuart C. Smith wrote in the April, 2000, ERIC DIGEST that, "…thousands of schools across the country suddenly have smaller classes, and now school boards and administrators face a new challenge: making sure the enormous investment … pays off in higher student achievement."

The SchoolMatch comparison, released today, includes only high schools with a student enrollment greater than 200 students. The total number of comprehensive high schools with graduating classes in the United States is 15,472, but the smallest schools and specialized schools were excluded from the comparisons because of anomalies in documenting pupil teacher ratios in such schools.

About SchoolMatch

SchoolMatch is an educational research and database service firm specializing in rating schools (K-12) by using auditable data. School systems and high schools are ranked in a national percentile format, making possible comparisons by the parent, educator, policy-maker, home-buyer or business leader. The SchoolMatch Audit of Educational Effectiveness utilizes the SchoolMatch databases to identify levels of effectiveness for schools and school systems. The SchoolMatch FairCompare system uses sophisticated data mining techniques to display comparisons, trends and patterns. For more information, please visit http://schoolmatch.com.

For further information on high school pupil/teacher ratios and pupil performance on scholarship examinations, leave SchoolMatch® a message at: Contact Us
Telephone: 614-890-1573.