The Effect of Attending a Small Class in the Early Grades on College-Test Taking and Middle School Test Results: Evidence from Project STAR
This paper provides a long-term follow-up of students who participated in the Tennessee STAR experiment. The Tennessee STAR experiment randomly assigned 11,600 elementary school students and their teachers to a small class, regular-size class or regular-size class with a teacher-aide. The experiment began with the wave of students who entered kindergarten in 1985, and lasted for four years. After the third grade, all students returned to regular-size classes. We analyze the effect of past attendance in a small class on standardized test scores through the eighth grade, on whether students took the ACT or SAT college entrance exam, and on how they performed on the ACT or SAT exam. The results suggest that attending a small class in the early grades is associated with somewhat higher performance on standardized test, and an increase in the likelihood that students take a college-entrance exam, especially among minority students. Most significantly, being assigned to a small class appears to have narrowed the black-white gap in college-test taking by 54 percent. A calculation is presented suggesting that the internal rate of return from reducing class size from 22 to 15 students is 5.5 percent.