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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Looping boosts achievement

Davis K-8 teacher Angie Harman, center, talks with

Angie Harman started her second year with Destiny Roman, left, and Imani Cole in 2016 as part of a looping pilot for third- and fourth-grade teachers in York, Pennsylvania. Photo: John A. Pavoncello/York Dispatch)

Looping — a teacher staying with the same class for two or more years — raises achievement for elementary students, according to a new study, reports Ed Week‘s Brenda Iasevoli. Non-white students gained the most.

The researchers also say the results explain why specialization, in which teachers serve as experts in a particular subject like math, science, or reading, has been shown to have negative effects on achievement. The implication is that students spend less time with teachers who only specialize in one subject, resulting in a less familiar relationship.

Iasevoli links to an Education Week article on “the ups and downs of specialization, also known as platooning, in elementary schools.”

Following his second graders through third grade let Justin Minkel get to know his students “really, really well,” he writes. It had a “powerful impact” on their learning.

I knew that Joel needed tough love, LeeAnn really was paying attention even when she was sprawled sideways on the rug, and Caleb responded better to positive affirmation than threats or consequences. I knew which kids needed tactile experiences in math and which ones could work out the problem in their heads. I knew which students would thrive as readers if you just put great books in their hands, and which kids needed tutoring or daily guided reading to fill their gaps in phonics and phonemic awareness.

He also had more time to get to know parents and how to work with them.

It takes till mid-year for a classroom to click, writes Minkel.

The behavioral issues have been mostly resolved, the kids trust me, and they’re comfortable with each other. They know the routines for everything from homework to resolving conflicts with one another, so almost all our class time can be devoted directly to learning. In a normal year, that golden period lasts about five months. When I loop with a class, it lasts 14.

If something didn’t work in second grade, looping gives him a chance to do it better in third grade.

The argument against looping is simple, he writes. “But what if a child gets stuck with a bad teacher?”

The fix is simple too, he believes. “If a particular student isn’t a good fit with a class or teacher who loops to the next grade, that child can always be placed in a different classroom at the parent’s (or teacher’s) request.”

If the issue is a bad teacher, “that teacher should either improve or leave the profession.”

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