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Study Shows Big Results Coming From Smaller Classrooms

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SMITHFIELD — Classrooms across the country and in North Carolina are reaping the benefits of a bill passed during the Clinton administration.

In 2000, local schools were given federal grants to reduce class size. As a result, more students are being promoted. There is an unexpected side effect for teachers, too.

At Smithfield Primary School, math lessons are a lot easier for teachers because there are fewer students per class.

Thanks to the Class Size Reduction Act, teacher Debbie Creech has 21 students in her class.

"I taught for years having 28 and 30 [students]. This is my 20th year, so I'm in heaven with 21," she said.

Most local schools in the nation received the federal grants.

Johnston County used its share of $350,000 to hire 12 new teachers for kindergarten through third grades and tracked the results. Teachers say it was money well spent.

"It's helped me to be able to help individual children more. It's helped me be able to keep up with the paperwork," teacher Cynthia Lee said.

In national research on class size reductions, teachers said that they like the smaller class sizes, but they also said that the classes are still not small enough.

Lee said that her ideal number would be 18 students per class -- not 21.

"I know it sounds silly, but just that few a number can make a difference," she said.

The study found that because of the smaller classes, more Johnston County students are getting promoted to the next grade and teachers are more likely to stay in the profession.

"I think, just physically, I go home less tired with 21 [students] and I'm a lot happier," Creech said.

In the nationwide study of class reduction, teachers often reported an increase in discipline problems.

Johnston County teachers said that students are coming to school with more serious problems and that the increase may be unrelated to class size.


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