Educational looping, in which students remain with the same teacher for two or more years, is a concept that is still used infrequently in the United States. Its advocates point to the benefits of looping with higher student test scores and the format’s extended opportunity for learning. Detractors argue disadvantages of looping in education is that students can be stuck with a bad teacher and may lose the benefit of social skills learned from a variety of social interactions.
Pro: Benefits of Looping
Some of the benefits of looping include students having the same teacher from year to year therefore avoiding some first-day-of-school angst. The summer-to-fall transition can be easier and less stressful particularly for more introverted kids. When employed in large middle school settings, looping can make the transition and the bigger school itself seem smaller and easier to navigate for rising middle school students.
Pro: Stronger Teacher-Student Relationships
While students have the benefit of developing a long-term relationship with their teacher, the teacher also gets to really know her students. She understands from day one what the students’ likely strengths and weaknesses are and can work to home in on what’s most important and effective for the individual. Additionally, teachers can foster strong relationships with parents so everyone is working as a team to the benefit of the student.
Pro: Summer Project Option
While students may not embrace the idea, willing teachers can offer summer projects to keep students engaged. Educators often lament the long summer break as a time of lost learning and point to the necessity of review at the start of each fall. A bit of summer work, presented to a familiar teacher in the fall, can help jump-start the new school year for students.
Pro: Hitting the Ground Running
Fall semester always includes a bit of getting-to-know time for teachers, students and classmates; this is not so when looping is in place. Because a student already knows his classmates and knows what his teacher expects of him, he can get immediately down to the business of learning. Teachers have said looping affords them more overall instructional time.
Pro: Higher Test Scores
Several studies, including one conducted by East Cleveland Schools and Cleveland State University 1997, have found that students educated in a looping environment scored significantly higher on standardized reading and mathematics exams than students not in a looping environment.
Con: Personality Conflicts
A common complaint about looping occurs when a student and her parents do not like the teacher. If the teacher-student fit is a bad one in the first year, knowing that they are all going to have to repeat the engagement in the fall can be disheartening to students and parents. Parents concerned with disadvantages of looping in education can ask for a conference with administration to request a different teacher for the next year. If the student is placed in a looped classroom and the teacher is not a good fit, it is best to address issues early on in the year with a teacher conference and if necessary, meeting with administration.
Con: Lack of Variety
Even a good teacher teaches only from his own base of knowledge. Looping in elementary schools does not always afford students the same options of exposure to different teaching styles, methods and philosophies. When eventually exposed to unfamiliar ideas, the student may find new approaches difficult to grasp and accept.
Con: Integrating New Students
Other disadvantages of looping in education deal with the way community is part of the experience. Because looping classrooms are often referred to as “families,” bringing a new student to the mix can be difficult. The individual student may feel an ill fit to such a cohesive classroom while the original classroom members may resent the presence of an outsider.
Con: Reduced Student Environment
Regardless of class size, looping can contribute to students' feelings that their environment is too small. In the name of security, students sacrifice the benefit of meeting a variety of other students and adults. They may also lose the benefit of developing greater interpersonal skills. It can be particularly difficult for looping students to transition when they’re finally sent off to a large school without a looping option.
Con: Student Over-attachment to Teachers
In spite of an administration’s best efforts, it is always possible for a looping teacher to leave a school or a district. Some of the disadvantages of looping in education deal with those personnel changes. Because students tend to have particularly close relationships with their looping teacher, when that teacher does not return to them the next year they may have a difficult time adjusting to a new teacher.