by Dr. Terry Stoops
Director of the Center for Effective Education, John Locke Foundation
WUNC’s Reema Khrais asks, “What Does Research Say About Smaller Classes and Fewer TAs?“
The NC Senate budget proposed aggressive class size reductions for grades K-3. The teaching positions needed to do so would be funded by eliminating teacher assistant positions. Their colleagues in the House are not keen on the idea.
But some prominent education scholars are. According to Khrais,
While [SUNY-Buffalo professor Jeremy] Finn and [Hoover Institution Senior Fellow Eric] Hanushek don’t agree on the importance of class size, they are on the same page about one thing, which is quite unfortunate for teacher assistants.
“On average, or in general, teacher aides have no academic impact on kids whatsoever, we just find nothing,” Finn says.
Finn says that’s based largely on the Tennessee study. Not many people have since looked into the impact of teacher assistants. He and other researchers say, while there are exceptions, it’s shown that most TAs don’t make a difference academically because they don’t have the credentials to do so.
While the Senate idea has some drawbacks, both logistically and politically, it appears that the research is on their side.