What is Looping?

Sometimes educationalese leaves parents scratching their heads in bewilderment. For sure, there are new terms every year that must be explained to us poor common parents.
While looping is not necessarily a new practice, it is becoming more and more common as schools scramble to meet NCLB (No Child Left Behind) laws.

Looping is where elementary children stay with the same teacher for more than one year. I have seen this done two ways. The first is where Johnny goes to school and has Mrs. Smith for 1st and 2nd grade. Just to be correct, this is the true definition of looping and is generally what is meant when the term is used. However, I’ve also seen looping happen in classrooms where two teachers divide the subjects of history, science, math and language arts and one teacher teaches math and science to the same group of students for two years while another teacher teaches language arts and social studies to that same group.

In Favor of Looping

As a former teacher I’ll admit my bias and tell you that I love looping. Here’s why: Do you know what your child does for the first 6-10 weeks at the beginning of the school year? He/She reviews what it is that they may have learned last year. It takes approximately that long for a teacher to make an accurate assessment, particularly in math and language arts.

Looping drastically reduced the need for review in the second year. As one study put it, “it increases instructional time without increasing the day or the year.” Since teachers already know what they taught, and the know students weaknesses and strengths, they can simply pick up where they left off–with only a small amount of reviewing. Research also seems to indicate that looping has increased math and reading scores significantly in the school districts where it is practiced.

Against Looping

You probably already know what the negatives are having your child with the same teacher for two years. It is true, that if your child gets a teacher with whom he/she clashes, who is ineffective, or who your child doesn’t like. . .it can ruin a couple years of school for him. Likewise, as a former teacher, I can tell you there are parents who I’d rather not deal with for two years.

In large school districts, the solution is to transfer the child into another class where hopefully his/her personality is a better fit for the teacher in that classroom.

Do you live in a school district where there’s looping? Has it been a positive or negative experience for you?

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