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.

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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:

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Arkansas, Kentucky primaries pose challenge for Obama

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

    He does much better with his mouth shut.

    May 24, 2012 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  2. Terry

    Hey Guys, Lets rape these teachers of Their Pensions like we did with all those Factory Workers. Yea Mitt, You have that special smile when They get escorted out by security guards. Thats right Bain, I be Lovin all up in that Raping of 2nd class Citizens Pensions. Stupid NON MILLIONAIRES!!!

    May 24, 2012 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  3. Obama 2012 - BEND Forward America, take another 4 long years of FAILURE

    Of course Democrats will ALWAYS pick the "solution" that results in dramatically higher costs for taxpayers and more teachers to bolster the union pay rolls. This has been done over and over, why are all these studies needed? The schools are churning out morons in too many cases and this is with very high drop out rates.

    Kids don't get held back anymore (can't hurt little Johnnie's feelings and embarrass the parents), just passed on to the next teacher that of course could spend their whole day with the idiot at the expense of the rest of the class.

    We used to have schools that worked the old fashioned way but the Democrats destroyed them.

    May 24, 2012 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  4. Thomas

    Why do Singapore and Finland have the highest rated public schools in the world ?

    Because they don't have charter schools competing more money. Why are the rated high for medical care , they have a health care system that works .

    Thank you GW Bush , 99% left behind !

    Romney / Bush

    May 24, 2012 11:12 am at 11:12 am |

    How would Willard know when he along with his kids all attended prep schools.

    May 24, 2012 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  6. d

    Romney along with all gop want schools privitized period...add to that the way they want this country to go is dwon hill and the faster the better...they do not believe gov. should be involved in any aspect of biz and they want schools to be business not educational centers for all children. makes one wonder what those members that were educated in public schools would be like today if they had not been given an education...odd how they think

    May 24, 2012 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  7. J3rdI

    If any parent votes for this guy after these comments, then you'll get what you deserve.

    May 24, 2012 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  8. JRS

    Mitt may have something here ..." ...smaller class sizes don't necessarily equate with better learning." Perhaps Doctors could see all patients in a waiting room at once , thus saving millions of dollars , rather than seeing each patient individually.

    May 24, 2012 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  9. Cory

    The GOP wants to privitize schools regardless of what this twit says. They are hard at it in Texas and are winning! More taxpayer money for the 1% that want to own the charter schools.

    May 24, 2012 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  10. mcskadittle

    Its all pie and the sky promises but how will he pay for this when the first thing the republicans cut is school funding

    May 24, 2012 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  11. vic , nashville ,tn

    This is the reason we have to talk about Bain

    May 24, 2012 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  12. GI Joe

    That's right Mittens. Make parents pay for their kids to get a free education. As long as it lines the pockets of you and your friends.

    May 24, 2012 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  13. Ty

    Unfiit Mitt wants to be done with public education and turn to charters school for profit. Just like a CEO who will benefit from this??????? Think about this People he is doing education just like BAIN.....

    May 24, 2012 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  14. Ty

    Unfiit Mitt wants to be done with public education and turn to charters school for profit. Just like a CEO who will benefit from this??????? Think about this People he is doing education just like BAIN..... He really think we are lower thinkers.

    May 24, 2012 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  15. Gil

    Class size is just one factor in student success. Another MAJOR factor is parent participation. Did Romney's study look at how parents in the different countries participate in their children's education. There is apathy in US Parents when it comes to their childs education. Many of them allow their children to play video games more than they allow them to study and do homework.

    May 24, 2012 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  16. Obama 2012 - BEND Forward America, take another 4 long years of FAILURE

    Why do Singapore and Finland have the highest rated public schools in the world ?
    Because they don't have charter schools competing more money.
    Typical liberal solution... shut down the schools that are SUCCEEDING so that more and more money can be pumped into the the ones that have proven over and over they can't get the job done. That way nobody will notice the kids graduating can't do simple math, read or know the history of this country.

    Yes, part of the "level the playing field" mentality that guarantees equality for the kids: all uneducated idiots. Everybody gets a trophy, but none of them can read the plaque on it that says "Biggest Loser".

    May 24, 2012 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  17. Terry

    Hey Mr Personality, Good luck with The Teacher vote, & we havent heard you repeat your stance on holding the student rates. Stop hiding & MEET THE PRESS!!!! Lose the Skirt!!!!

    May 24, 2012 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  18. Niuhc

    Vote Obama/Biden 2012, the only way forward to turning America into France or Greece.

    May 24, 2012 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  19. asdf

    Don't be so quick to take Romney's head off here. One of the worst problems we have with education is a lack of research. We simply don't know what works.

    We thought it was small class sizes and money, but take a look at the "Abbot" districts in NJ – Newark and Camden schools spend more per student than the suburban schools and they graduate less than half of the students.

    Then we went the other way with NCLB – but that stunk too.

    Even the Gates foundation – after tossing tons of money into education with little effect – finally gave up and said they would no longer fund education projects, only education research.

    May 24, 2012 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  20. Gloria

    There is a a problem with any study performed- one typically will find what one expects and self-fufilling prophecies. If I, as a teacher, want 15 children and receive 25 then I have my excuse for underperformance. If I enjoy larger classrooms and the challenge of it, as a teacher will flourish in that environment and so will the children. Terefore, I would tend to look betond our borders and compare our class sizes with those of highly performing school systems that have a different view point and see what I find. Studies must be very careful to ensure they are measuring what they say they are and not something else like attitutde and preference of the teacher/society. Then again, there are extenuating circumstances such as sited stating that smaller classes reduce teacher pay reduce quality of teacher one can hire- result- smaller class and weaker performance.

    May 24, 2012 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  21. cali girl

    If schools were a business, guranteed vultures like Bain would have slashed and burned it all, collecting their wads of cash.
    He is not going to stand for education, people, he will be the first to cut it. He said that most services for low income and single mothers would find it cut to almost nothing. Then why would he throw money at education, when that is not his problem.

    May 24, 2012 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  22. Dawn

    If what he said was true, private schools wouldn't have 15- 20 kids in a classroom as oppose to 30. Private schools could make more money by putting 30 kids in every classroom but don't because they know that competing with that many kids for the teachers attention does more harm than good.

    May 24, 2012 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |

    "A Chance For Every Child" is what the banner reads. Does that include kids who were born here, but their parents came here illegally? Please explain Willard what the heck you mean. Should the parents self deport and we just keep the kids?

    May 24, 2012 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  24. Myviewis

    The problem with our school system is teacher quality. Truth be told, most teachers in the USA should not be teaching. I'm not from the USA and yes teachers in other countries are highly regarded because they are extremely well educated, well mannered, strict and hard working. Let's be honest, we have teacher problems everyday from not paying attention in school to having relationships with their students which in other countries is completely unacceptable to trying to impose their personal views on the kids.

    May 24, 2012 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  25. Pete

    It's funny how your republican buddies Kasich,Scott,Haley,all repub governors are advocating less teachers with layoffs,putting incentives on grades, making teachers fight their fellow teacher for the intelligent students,so they get bonus monies for higher overall class grade averages.More students in classrooms,thanks to republicans public sector restructuring,redistricting,transfering the "good" teachers to "magnet schools" and the eventual elimination of the public school system with supposid voucher programs to inhibit growth in these other "new school" programs..More ignorent talk from a candidate who never was in a public school,only private for this Mormon clown!!His kids weren't either!!!

    May 24, 2012 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
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