Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

First Advisor

Meyers, Herman


The thesis addresses the relationship of class size to student performance in a rural state. It presents findings from a longitudinal study of a cohort of students who were tested with state assessments at grade 4 in 2000, again at grade 8 in 2004 and, finally at grade 10 in 2006. Graduation rates for five large-class sized schools and five small-class sized school populations were established in 2008. All scores (n=1137) were matched across time enabling students from similar socioeconomic backgrounds from schools that were considered small (average class size, n=11) to schools that were large (average, n= 20). The paper’s focus is on the extent that students from schools that maintained large and small classes differed in selected opportunities to learn and educational outcomes. The approach to the study utilized both large scale state databases for student backgrounds and outcomes and interviews with school personnel in order to identify school policy and practices that might be linked to performance differences. The primary goal of this research study was to determine if small classes resulted in improved student achievement compared to those students in larger classes. Although Vermont does not have the large class sizes of the quasi-experimental studies and policy initiatives cited in the literature, it does have a wide range of average class sizes. The targeted high school math and English classes of this study ranged from an average of 11 students in the average small class to 20 in the average large class. If class size were a critical influence on students’ academic achievement, one would expect to see significant differences between students who were educated in classes nearly twice as large as other classes. This study concludes that there was no such difference. In terms of academic achievement, with the exception of 10th grade math scores, students in larger classes performed the same or better than students in smaller classes. Students in larger classes had slightly higher graduation rates, and a larger proportion planned to attend two or four year colleges.