Do Smaller Classes Mean Better Schools? Economists Aren't So Sure

Many say that evidence doesn't back up the belief that less-crowded classrooms lead to improved learning

Of course American schools would be better if classes were less crowded. Ask a parent. Ask a teacher. Ask President Clinton or California's Governor, Pete Wilson, who have pledged billions to reduce the size of classes in the first, second, and third grades. It's the kind of government spending even fiscal conservatives can love.

Ask an economist whether small classes help, however, and you find yourself in the middle of one of the more fascinating public-policy debates of our time.