Study Shows Looping Benefits Students
Does your child’s school practice “looping”? Though intentional looping rarely implemented, experts say it improves student behavior and academic performance across all grades levels and subjects.
“Looping” refers to classrooms in which students stay with the same teacher for more than one year. According to an article published by the Rockefeller Institute of Government, “traditional looping occurs when a teacher intentionally stays with the same class of students for more than one year” (Wedenoja, 2019). However, there are unintentional ways that looping can transpire, such as when a teacher moves on to teach a higher grade level and has some or all of the same students as the previous year” (most common in elementary schools), or when a teacher instructs multiple grade levels at the same time, in the same classroom (as often seen in middle and high schools). “Importantly, the positive effect of having a repeat teacher is present no matter how that repetition occurs” (Wedenoja, 2019).
The article, titled “Teacher Looping Improves Student Outcomes,” extrapolates on research conducted at Brown University, which explores the extent of looping across all levels of school and estimating the effects repeat teachers have on students’ academic achievement and behavior. That research made the following findings:
1. “Repeat teachers improve student test scores in math and reading, decrease absenteeism, and decrease suspension in grades three through 11.”
2. “The improvements in absenteeism and suspension are driven predominantly by benefits to male students of color.”
3. “Traditionally looped classrooms are rare, though students benefit from repeat teachers even when the repetition isn’t planned” (Wedenoja, 2019).
As demonstrated by this research, “a strong student-teacher relationship can provide benefits both inside and outside the classroom. Supporting and amplifying these relationships is one goal of looping” (Wedenoja, 2019).
Students who work with a tutor can have a similar effect when that relationship is long-term.
According to an article published by the University of Oregon, summer bridge programs and parent and mentor involvement are just a few practices that are compatible with looping. This includes ongoing instruction and mentorship from educational tutors, which allows those instructors to “to accumulate more in depth knowledge of students’ personalities, learning styles, strengths, and weaknesses. This longer contact reduces time spent on diagnosis and facilitates more effective instruction (Paul S. George and others 1996, Simel, Robert D. Lincoln 1998, as cited in Gaustad, 1998).
“For students, having the same teacher and classmates for two or more years provides stability and builds a sense of community. Looping reduces anxiety and increases confidence for many children, enabling them to blossom both socially and as learners” (Gaustad, 1998).
Studies show that working with the same teacher, tutor or mentor over time benefits students in a multitude of ways. Unfortunately, the occurrence of intentional looping in schools is uncommon, and most students are unable to receive multi-year instruction from a single teacher. In contrast, access to tutoring is widely available. Some schools host an after-school tutoring program, and tutoring centers offer small group and individual instruction, though many of these facilities specialize in math only. Private tutoring is also available for students looking for personalized, one-on-one, in-depth instruction in one or many subjects.