May 24th, 2012
11:03 AM ET
11 years ago

Romney defends class size stance to teachers

(CNN) – Mitt Romney, who is spending this week promoting a plan for America's public school system, spent Thursday morning defending his stance that smaller class sizes don't necessarily equate with better learning in schools.

Romney participated in an education roundtable at a charter school in Philadelphia the day after laying out his education plan to Latino small business owners in Washington. Romney's plan emphasizes school choice over other factors, including efforts to reduce the number of students in classrooms.

- Follow the Ticker on Twitter: @PoliticalTicker

Speaking of his time as governor of Massachusetts, Romney said he was frequently told that smaller class sizes would lead to better learning, but that certain studies advised otherwise.

"I came into office and talked to people and said, 'What can we do to improve our schools?'" Romney said at his Thursday event. "And a number of folks said we need smaller classroom sizes, that will make the biggest difference."

Romney went on to cite a study that showed no correlation between classroom size and performance, naming schools in Cambridge, Massachusetts as an example.

"The schools in the district with the smallest classroom sizes had students performing in the bottom 10%," Romney said. "Just getting smaller classrooms didn't seem to be the key."

Romney was pressed on his stance by a music teacher at the charter school who questioned the research Romney cited.

"I can't think of any teacher in the whole time I've been teaching, for 10 years, 13 years, who would say that more students would benefit them," Steven Morris, the teacher, said. "And I can't think of a parent who would say 'I would like my student to be in a classroom with a lot of kids with only one teacher.' So I'm kind of wondering where this research comes from."

Another teacher participating in the roundtable said unequivocally that he had too many students in his classroom.

"It's too large," the second teacher said. "It varies between classes, anywhere between 20 and 28. You can give more personalized attention to each student if you have a smaller class size."

Romney responded by naming a study from the McKinsey Global Institute, which is associated with the management consultancy McKinsey and Co. The presumptive GOP presidential nominee said the group's research compared class sizes in countries around the world, and showed the highest performing schools had class sizes the same as in the United States.

"So it's not the classroom size that's driving the success of those school systems," Romney concluded. More important, he said, was recruiting the best teachers and ensuring administrators have the correct priorities in leading schools.

While Romney cited one study to seemingly question the benefit of smaller class sizes, the majority of research does point to improved learning from smaller classes, according to Education Week.

One large study in Tennessee, which was conducted over a nearly thirty year period, showed students who were placed in a smaller-sized classroom made measurable gains, and performed better even when they were put back in larger classes.

Other studies show that smaller classes lead to higher achievement for minority students and students living below the poverty line.

Education Week notes that initiatives to promote smaller class sizes are costly, and sometimes lead to the hiring of under-qualified teachers.

Lis Smith, a spokeswoman for President Barack Obama's re-election team, responded to Romney's class size stance with a question: "What planet does he live on?"

"At his event today in Philadelphia, we saw Mitt Romney's vision for education and it truly tests commonsense," Smith wrote. "When confronted by teachers who know firsthand the benefits of smaller class sizes, Mitt Romney continued to insist - against all evidence - that larger class sizes are the answer to a good education. And he has even claimed that smaller class sizes 'hurt' education."

Also see:

Obama campaign expands Bain attack and general election ad buys

Poll: Romney takes lead in Florida

Palin endorses Utah's Hatch in Senate race

Arkansas, Kentucky primaries pose challenge for Obama

Filed under: 2012 • Education • Mitt Romney
soundoff (48 Responses)
  1. Niuhc

    Actually, Romney is Obamalite. The only reason to vote for Romney would be to slow the damage being done to America. We really need someone like Ron Paul as president. He will halt the crash of America, and his more different ideas would be moderated by the Senate and Congress. At least he will not treat the constitution as an "inconvienence."

    May 24, 2012 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  2. Ann

    Romney is correct, class size is not the only problem. Parents and teachers should work together to discipline the kids. A good teacher can do excellent work with 35 disciplined students and nothing with 10 students who are noisy and disrespectful. Do you really think teachers in other countries have to keep students quiet or to entertain them? Do you have any idea how disciplined, motivated and hard working are students in Finland who are doing much better than the US students?

    May 24, 2012 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  3. texasgreenacres

    I still wonder why people can't understand when it ain't broke don't fix it.I left school in the 1960's and teachers still had control of students.There' been plenty of republicans and democrats messing with the system.And it seems that all their efforts was in vain. Our school system has fell like a rock and both side carry equal blame so. Remember this people that live in glass houses shouldn't throw rocks. THAT'S SOMETHING LIKE THE UP COMING ELECTION TRYING TO FIX SOMETHING THAT'S WORKING MAYBE SLOW AND NOT TO EVERYBODY'S LIKING BUT ALL THE SAME WORKING

    May 24, 2012 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  4. victoria

    I would like the know the sizes of his classes when he was in school and all his sons. Where they classrooms filled with 30 kids? Probably not.

    May 24, 2012 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  5. Gloria

    PS: You may find some mispellings in my previous post...that would give some hope .

    May 24, 2012 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  6. Expat American

    Romney still doesn’t understand why every time he starts talking about education; every Republican in the room turns their back or plugs their ears.
    Romney would be wise to choose Crazy Perry as his running mate. That way, once the Dept. of Education is dissolved, he won’t need to address education in America any longer.
    Romney/Crazy Perry 2012!

    May 24, 2012 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  7. jake

    So tired of this clown already doing nothing but BS people. This guy now promises 6% unemployment after 4 years of being President...duhhhh. This fool is just repeating what everyone else is saying that at the current rate, unemployment will be at 6% by 2016. Now he wants to stake his claim to this. Next he'll promise that water will continue to be wet if he's elected President. This guy has no clue on anything, just repeating what others say and trying to BS everyone that it was his idea. Just like he now wants to take credit for the auto industry doing well after he said "let them all go bankrupt". And the double talking fool now claims he'll get tough on China on trade. Same fool that bankrupt companies and sent jobs to China when at Bain. He must think everyone is so gullible or that America is made up of fools.

    May 24, 2012 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  8. asdf

    We should reform the way we do HS completely. Take out some of the more BS classes, make every student take a civics/economics class. Let kids who will never go to college stop going to HS at 17 and give them a free education in a trade. Those kids don't need to know calculus or physics. They will only be a drain on the public school system and get nothing out of it. I'd much rather we set them up with a marketable skill than waste another year of their lives before throwing a gown on them and making them stand in the unemployment line.

    May 24, 2012 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  9. Tanja

    Republican's #1 goal for education in America – Outlaw education for the poor.

    May 24, 2012 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  10. gg

    sorry times are tough 7 off you students will have to be layed off–we will start with family income,s to see who goes first

    May 24, 2012 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  11. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Priveledge kids attend private schools as Romney did because the private school was a better place for him to learn. I have no problem with Romney or anyone else who attends private school, but I do have a problem with Romney's inability to tell the whole truth and I can guarantee you his privedged precious little none military serving sons attended private school.

    May 24, 2012 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  12. Texas Public school teacher

    As an educator i do have one question for everyone:

    Have you considered that maybe teachers know what works?

    Too many people think that there is just one answer to what works for public education, but you have to stop treating it like it is some scientific equation. There is no ONE correct answer.

    Teaching is an art. It requires constant adjustment to the 150 new variables you receive at the beginning of every year. We struggle to have the kids understand the overwhelming number of concepts the local and federal governments decide we need to teach, knowing full well that without sufficient time to practice these skills will be quickly forgotten. We have constant interruptions to our teaching for standardized testing and then are lambasted for the low results we predicted would happen.
    If you want us to perform better in school have us teach fewer concepts but more in depth. We need to raise the intellectual capacity of the student and equip them with the ability to process unknown information.
    Charter schools can be a good idea, but as implemented most of them try for a strict business structure. This leads to failure in educating everyone. As a teacher i cannot "fire" my unproductive employee. They must be convinced that an education is worth it.
    The idea of vouchers would leave behind those the charter schools deem as undesirable condemning them to a poorly funded education with second rate or overwhelmed teachers. We teach not because we can't do anything else. We teach because we truly refuse to leave the children to a lifetime of ignorance.
    By the way. Think aboout it if you are reading thes....How exactly did you learn to read?
    your parents are the first teachers and there is no exact science to parenting either.

    May 24, 2012 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  13. Myviewis

    Thomas is correct about Finland, however, Finland does not have a diverse population problem nor various income levels as we have in the USA and their kids are extremely well mannered and controlled by the parents and society and of course it is a small country. You don't have to deal foreigners pushing to impose their language in their society like we have in the USA with Spanish, foreigners in Finland have to adapt and assimilate where in the USA foreigners push to not assimilate. In other words, Finland does not practice freedom with foreigners.

    May 24, 2012 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  14. MTATL67

    In other words he does not care about the workload and stress larger class sizes puts on teachers...what a putts.

    May 24, 2012 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  15. Woman In California

    Yet another subject where Willard is out of his league.

    May 24, 2012 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  16. NC Mom

    How can anybody say that the additional attention that a teacher can give students in a smaller class size doesn't reap the benefit. He's preparing everybdoy for the eventuallity that vouchers will pull kids from regular public schhols, and reduce the amount of funding to those schools which will inevitably result in larger class size. All kids can't get in the best schools on vouchers, so those who don't get in will still be stuck in schools that are even worse than they are now.

    May 24, 2012 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  17. Rudy NYC

    Many districts have class sizes ranging to nearly 40 students or higher. Mitt Romney wants us to believe that that is a bad thing. You gotta be Mitten me.

    Romney wants us to believe a lot more conservative nonsense. Most especially that reducing taxes, creating an additional $5 trillion in debt over the next decade will somehow balance the budget. Worst of all, that $5 trillion figure is based upon the assumption that unemployment hits the Romney/Ryan target of under 4%. It it doesn't hit that target then you can double that figure to $10 trillion should unemployment remain over 7%.

    May 24, 2012 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  18. Obama 2012 - BEND Forward America, take another 4 long years of FAILURE

    There are problems with our schools but class size is NOT one of them.

    1. Teachers spend too much time babysitting and dealing with discipline problems. All time they are NOT teaching.
    2. Too many bad teachers that the unions protect and are impossible to get rid of.
    3. Parents that don't help their kids and make sure they do their homework.
    4. Parents that don't do their job and make sure kids know failure in school is NOT an option.
    5. Kids that think gangsta is cool and smart is nerd.
    6. Kids that think school is a waste when they can become a rich rapper or reality TV star thnaks to You tube.

    May 24, 2012 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  19. The REAL Truth...

    @BEND Over – We used to have schools that worked the old fashioned way but the Democrats destroyed them.
    Who destroyed the schools?? No Child Left Behind (a Bush plan BTW – look it up).. Texas CUT $4 BILLION in school funding last legislative session, then pushed to costs of balancing the budget out to the next legislative session... typical creative financing Repug behavior. They are vying for the same at the National level too. The intelligent among us just love it when you gush this garbage. Those with a modicum of intelligence see thru the swill and propaganda

    May 24, 2012 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  20. The REAL Truth...

    @BEND Over – We used to have schools that worked the old fashioned way but the Democrats destroyed them.
    Who destroyed the schools?? No Child Left Behind (a Bush plan BTW – look it up).. Texas CUT $4 BILLION in school funding last legislative session, then pushed to costs of balancing the budget out to the next legislative session... typical GOBP behavior. They are vying for the same at the National level too. The intelligent among us just love it when the right wingnuts gush this garbage. Those with a modicum of intelligence see thru the swill and propaganda

    May 24, 2012 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  21. griffbos

    okay he is partly right class size is not a major factor, but as Gov his answer was not either with MCAS in which teachers stopped teaching for students to learn, instead taught to pass a test, nor will school voucher system solve the issue, we need to give teachers back control of the classroom and school and stop the daycare sytem we have today........

    May 24, 2012 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  22. emma

    Having come to know Romney as a guy who makes numbers lie for him, I do not trust his comprehension of educational processes and what impacts on them. I would really like to know who has done his review of education research and who has analyzed it for him to speak the way he does. Me thinks his view is totally politically and financially based and not what serves the best interest of learners.

    May 24, 2012 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  23. Lewis

    Once again, he has no clue!!!! Smaller classes allows teachers to work more one on one with students, which allows students to ask more questions, which promotes a better learning environment. And ensures student success. If I am teaching a class with 40 plus students, it is a little difficult addressing every students issues on a daily basis in a 50-60 minute class.

    May 24, 2012 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
1 2