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August 2000
SDPL Research

The Relationship Between School Size and Academic Achievement in Georgia's
Public High Schools
(Under the Direction of Dr. C. KENNETH TANNER)

Department of Educational Leadership
University of Georgia

Educators, policy makers, and researchers have debated the issue of school size for decades in an effort to increase academic achievement. The trend has been a push towards creating larger schools. Advocates for smaller schools claim many benefits of smaller schools, and previous research about the issue of school size has been inconclusive concerning the relationship between school size and student academic achievement.

The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between school size and academic achievement in Georgia's public high schools. Since research indicated that many factors influence academic achievement, this study controlled for two possible influences on academic achievement: ethnicity of students (through sampling), and percentage of students receiving free or reduced lunch (through analysis of covariance). Based on the test of significant differences among the group classifications it was not necessary to control for the percentage of teachers with advanced certification in this sample.

This study utilized one way analysis of variance to determine if significant differences existed among public high schools of varying sizes. The 116 schools included in the sample were classified into four groups: [Group 1 (1584-2826), Group 2 (1213-1573), Group 3 (854-1137), and Group 4 (< or 828)]. Three dependent variables were included in this study: (a) the five content area tests on the 1998-1999 Georgia High School Graduation Tests, (b) the 1998-1999 total Scholastic Aptitude Test scores, and (c) the percentage of students eligible for Georgia's HOPE Scholarship Program.

There was a consistent pattern in the Scheffe' multiple range tests (Alpha = .05). No significant difference was found across all variables between Group 1 and Group 2 and Groups 2 and 3. There were significant differences between Group 4 and Groups 1 and 2 and between Groups 3 and 1.

This study of Georgia's public high schools found that in the three academic areas analyzed, students in the larger schools scored higher on achievement measures than students in the smaller schools (less that 850 students). Although the results of this study were in favor of the larger schools when cognitive learning was analyzed, affective and behavioral dimensions of learning were not investigated. It is recommended that further investigations consider school size as it relates to the behavioral and affective dimensions of learning before making the overall declaration that "bigger schools are better."

INDEX WORDS: School size, Large schools, Small schools, Academic Achievement

Posted on August 8, 2000

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