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CSR Fact Sheet #2: Tennessee vs. California (June 2000)

The impressive findings from the Tennessee Student/Teacher Achievement Ratio project (STAR) - the largest, longest-lasting, and most controlled study yet done on the effects of class size - greatly influenced California legislators’ decision to enact class size reduction and created high expectations for its outcomes. Conducted from 1985 to 1990, STAR found that smaller classes led to substantial achievement gains for primary-grade students, with gains for poor and minority children almost double those of their peers.

The dramatic contrasts between Project STAR and California’s experiences illustrate the difficulty of implementing a proven intervention in a different setting. Given the following comparisons, the California CSR program is clearly not a replication of the Tennessee experiment and should be judged on its own terms.


  Tennessee California


Controlled experiment involving fewer than 10,000 students

Statewide program involving 1.8 million students

Class sizes

Classes of 22-26 reduced to 13-17

Classes averaging 29 reduced to 20


White and African American

Enormous racial and ethnic diversity; 1/3 of K-3 students are not native English speakers


Adequate supply of qualified teachers

Prompted hiring of thousands of teachers, many inexperienced and/or uncredentialed.


Adequate space for smaller classes

Worsened existing facilities crisis