Elementary specialists

The one teacher elementary classroom is on the way out in Palm Beach County, Florida.  Third through fifth graders will have four diferent teachers for reading/language arts, math, science and social studies. Some schools will use specialists for first and second grades, and even kindergarten, reports the Sun-Sentinel.

Administrators say subject-matter experts will improve learning. Parents want proof the middle-school specialization model works for young children.

Via Core Knowledge Blog.

I used to tutor at East Palo Alto Charter School, which uses math-science specialists starting in mid-elementary school.  Teachers who lack a strong math or science background can focus on teaching reading, writing and history. EPAC typically meets or exceeds state averages despite a high-poverty, all-minority student body with many English Language Learners. The math scores are especially strong.

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  1. Four teacher in two years? I keep getting the feeling that school is partly about teaching kids that relationships with adults are short lived and shallow. This doesn’t put the lie to that feeling.

  2. tim-10-ber says:

    My younger son had three academic and three enrichment (art, music and pe) in both third and fourth grade. My older son had two academic (one was god awful!!!) and three enrichment teachers. Sadly the older one had a self contained 5th grade classroom because the stupid system in my city did not think kids could handle changing classes. Geez…what did they think my son had been doing before middle school? Just one of the many reasons he graduated from a private school.

  3. tim-10-ber says:

    Sorry…I am very much in favor of this move. Even in Kindergarten, first and second grade they had the one classroom teacher and three enrichment teachers. I believe most kids handle this stuff so much better than their parents…

  4. SuperSub says:

    This is good if you have elementary teachers who don’t know math or other subjects… but the question is, if the teachers can’t effectively teach addition and subtraction, then why are they teaching in the first place?

  5. Tom in GA says:

    I cannot believe anyone would be opposed to at least having some specialization in late elementary. The presumption that most 3rd-5th grade teachers are both competent and positive in teaching math is delusional.

    The finger often gets pointed at middle school for when things go south in math education but statistically we start losing ground from 3rd grade on – and it’s difficult to make up ground in math (when it comes to whole classes).

    Having four specialists may be a bit much but two makes complete sense.

  6. If we differ over values, numerous small independent school districts or a competitive market in education services will allow for the expression of various preferences, while the contest for control of policy in a single, large district must create unhappy losers. If we disagree over a matter of fact, where “What works?” is an empirical question, numerous small school districts or a competitive market in education services will generate more information about how to combine resources to meet desired goals than will a single, State-wide monopoly school district. A State-wide monopoly provider of a good or service is like an experiment with one treatment and no controls, a retarded experimental design.

    A school voucher policy would allow parents to opt out of this experiment. If this new policy were anew drug or surgical procedure, nedical ethics would require that administrators get parent consent before imposing it.

  7. Margo/Mom says:

    According to SAT scores on entry into college, elementary teachers are generally below the mean in mathematics. Couple that with the need to study childhood development, pedagogy, and all content areas–there isn’t enough time to cover needed content in depth. We cannot assume that “knowing more than a first grader,” is sufficient criteria for teaching–particularly in math, but I suspect that the same is true in reading, simply that we have put far more emphasis there. In pre-standardization classrooms, it was not uncommon for kids to get an extra dose of whatever the teacher was strong in, and sparse coverage of what was not of interest. There are other options, such as longer pre-service training, to allow for more content coverage. Of course, that means living through a long time-frame until many of the current classroom teachers have moved on to see an impact.

  8. Therese says:

    I found it very difficult trying to communicate with 3 or 4 teachers in 3rd grade. Due to class sharing on top of moving classes for social studies and math, it was next to impossible to track down every teacher to find out how my son was doing. We have outstanding teachers in our school district and I found my kids did much better with less moving around. But I guess that works only if you have good all around teachers to begin with.

  9. AndyJoy says:

    Four years ago I took “Math for Elementary School Teachers” at a university because I was hoping it would benefit me in my future homeschooling endeavors. I was HORRIFIED at the math skills of 3/4 of my classmates. We were studying K-6 math, and they were struggling mightily. These young women were earning A’s in all of their other elementary education courses, so I have no doubt that they have moved into teaching now. At the end of the semester, the 3 young women who sat at my table all gave me Christmas cards thanking me for my help and said “I never would have made it through this course without you!” That was a frightening thought to me.

    The professor was very disappointed that I didn’t actually plan to become a classroom teacher. She and I talked quite a bit outside of class, and she was very frustrated and had a dismal outlook of math education in elementary schools. She said she wished that the 1/4 of her students who were truly competent and excited about math could be the ones doing all the math teaching. She believed that the other 3/4 who struggled would unwittingly transmit apathy, fear, or hostility for math to their students.

    For the first two months of 5th grade, I had three daily teachers: math/history, English/literature, science/spelling. Unfortunately, the elderly math/history teacher broke her hip and retired. Thus, she was replaced with a long-term sub and we moved back to self-contained classrooms. I can tell you there was a MAJOR difference in having a teacher who was passionate about math vs. a teacher who just taught it.

  10. Bill Leonard says:

    I fail to see what is so revolutionary or threatening about this proven system of kids moving from class to class for arithmetic, reading and so forth from third grade onward. It is precisely the system I grew up in while in the Des Moines school system from kindergarten through the start of seventh grade. We started moving from classroom to classroom when I entered third grade — in 1951.

    By the start of junior high school — seventh, eighth and nineth grades in that era — kids moved from class to class all day long, and even to alternating classes on odd and even calendar days. A lot of learning happened.

    No surprise, I was nearly a full academic year ahead of the seventh grade class I was placed in when we moved to California in 1955. That system relied on a home room teacher through eighth grade, along with the “working in committees” nonsense and other essentially useless practices.

  11. Surely there’s some research on this by now. In the ’70s, my wife taught math and English to 3rd and 6th graders. Interestingly enough, my wife was quite a good elementary math teacher because she hated math in high school (and I know the geometry teacher who made that happen), and she understood immediately why certain pupils were having problems because she had had the same problems when she was in school!