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Wisconsin Education Program Reduces Class Size, Increasing Student Achievement

Susan Notes:
This report is good news for those trying to argue for smaller class size. It's ironic that this reports appears at the start of a school year with exploding class sizes.

Education Policy Research Unit


from the Education Policy Research Unit (EPRU)
of the Education Policy Studies Laboratory (EPSL) at Arizona State University


Thursday, September 25, 2003

Professor Phil Smith
Department of Educational Psychology
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
(414) 229-5286

Professor John Zahorik
Department of Curriculum and Instruction
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
(414) 229-4840

Professor Alex Molnar, Director
Education Policy Studies Laboratory
(480) 965-1886

TEMPE, Ariz.- Class Size Reduction in Wisconsin: A Fresh Look at the Data, a report released today by the Education Policy Research Unit(EPRU), evaluates the effectiveness of Wisconsin's Student Achievement Guarantee in Education (SAGE) program.
Find this document on the web at:
The report compares the academic achievement of students in SAGE schools to that of students in non-SAGE
comparison schools located in SAGE districts.

The SAGE program intends to increase academic achievement of low-income children in grades K-3 by reducing class size, reforming the
curriculum, providing professional development, and opening schools to morning and evening activities.

The researchers, Professor Phil Smith (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee), Professor Alex Molnar (Arizona State University),
and Professor John Zahorik (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee), address four important issues regarding the SAGE evaluation: How "big" is the SAGE achievement effect? Do SAGE results persist in second and third grade? Does SAGE reduce the African-American/White achievement gap?
Does SAGE improve the performance of children living in poverty and those with poor attendance?

SAGE Achievement Effect

The researchers used Average Growth Curves (AGC) to measure SAGE student achievement. AGCs provide the expected average growth of student achievement over time, offering a useful basis for comparison in
evaluating educational effects.

The report illustrates that SAGE students outperformed non-SAGE students, gaining 25-30% of a year's additional growth by the end of first grade.

Persisting Advantages

After first grade, the report shows that SAGE students maintained their advantage over comparison students in reading and mathematics through third grade.

Closing the Achievement Gap

According to the researchers, all students benefit from being in small classes, but African-American Students benefit most of all.
African-American students entering first grade classes in SAGE schools had lower reading and math scores than African-American students
entering larger classes in comparison schools. By the end of first grade African-American SAGE students' achievement scores were significantly higher than those of African-American students in comparison classes.

In addition, African-American SAGE students narrowed the achievement gap between them and their white classmates in first grade.
This decreased gap did not widen in second and third grade for SAGE students. In comparison schools, African-American students fell further
behind White students each year.

SAGE Effect on Low Attendance

SAGE classes appear to minimize the devastating effects of low attendance as well, the report shows. Low attending SAGE students perform as well as high attending comparison school students.


The researchers conclude that the SAGE program increases students' achievement, upholds gains through third grade, is most beneficial to African-American students, narrows the achievement gap between African-American and White students, and compensates for poor attendance.

— Phil Smith, Alex Molnar, and John Zahorik
Wisconsin Education Program Reduces Class Size, Increasing Student Achievement
Education Policy Research Unit



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