The Lawrence Elementary Looping Project (Grades 4-5)

By Lajean Shiney, Founder

The Lawrence Looping Project is not a technique new to Wichita, but it is to our school. We have several pair of classroom teachers who make up “loops”; in my case, I have fourth grade this year, with my partner teacher teaching her fourth graders from last year again as fifth grade. Next year, I will keep the students from my class and teach fifth grade, and my looping partner will begin her new loop with a fresh class of fourth graders. While some benefits reportedly include giving special ed students a more stable learning environment, I am particularly looking forward to a more long-range curriculum, and for dealing more effectively with students who, say, spend nearly a whole year just getting up to speed on basis math skills, only to go out the door just when things were beginning to get on track.

While there is a fair amount of information written about multi-age classrooms where multiple grades are in one classroom, I have found far less material on “looping” or the other more ambiguous terms used to define it. In the following pages, I have a compilation of information which was available to me during our fact-finding process.

The following information was compiled from various sources for my personal use in evaluating the viability of looping at my own school. Much was given to me in the form of “copies of copies”; my apologies to authors who are uncredited here.

Issues to be Addressed:

Q. Will students learn anything during the second year with a teacher?
A. The academic growth should be strengthened in that skill level from spring be targeted much sooner in the fall. Staff member would know child’s strengths and weaknesses. Teachers would be more able to group learners by academic needs.

Q. How will teacher turnover affect this plan?
A. Teacher turnover should not impact the convept as new staff members would be acquired that already believe in and are committed to the looping initiative.

* increased instructional time
* the system fosters bonds between staff/kids/parents
* better serve diverse student body
* authentic assessment of student programs
* increase parent involvement
* emphasizes stability, persistence and intimacy
* more readily developed with group “persistence”
* increases staff partnership
* possibly fewer behavior problems as stronger peer relationships develop
* staff learn from each other
* reduce student anxiety of possible failure
* teachers more patient, relaxed, easier to experience with teaching methods

Q. How will looping make it a better system at a smaller school?
A. ?

Q. Would departmentalization continue?
A. Departmentalization would not be affected and could be expanded.

Q. How do teachers feel about looping?
A. Teachers have not given a formal opinion about the concept but have been open to discussing and studying the issues. We hope t make a better determination near the end of March.

Q. What are some cons to looping?
A. Teacher making parent unhappy; student social skills; discipline; students may miss out on having a certain teacher if teacher transfers.

Q. Combination classes – how would this work?
A. ?

Q. What to do about parent/student/teacher conflict?
A. Individual conflicts would be addresses as they are now – individually.

Q. Class size.
A. ?

Q. Planning/Prep for teachers
A. Planning would begin in April and May during inservice opportunity, and most likely a summer retreat.

Q. Would there be an opportunity for students to change teachers?
A. Staff return in fall – unknown as of this date.

Q. Total staff commitment
A. Would be necessary to ensure success – “total staff” could mean select group.

Looping – What Research Says

On the following few pages, staff has attempted to synthesize the multitude of research available to our community as we explore the concept of “looping” for our learning community during the 95-96 school year. The looping concept is an instructional delivery system which allows a staff member to remian with their class for up to three years. As we contemplate the initiation of this programming method, your professional staff will make their recommendation only after validating their recommendation based on fact, research and what’s best for kids.

Our 2nd “town meeting” is scheduled for March 7 in our library. At this session, the staff will attempt to respond to inquiries from our first “town meeting” and provide additional input from district practitioners who currently utilize the concept.

Please take a moment to review the information garnered from research and plan on attending our meeting tomorrow. Should you wish to review the entire file on “looping”, please feel free to stop by the office or if you need additional information about a specific piece of research, please contact the staff person who is serving as the resource for that specific piece of research.

We hope our efforts lead our community to decisions that will reflect favorably on the academic and social success of all of our students.

“Restructuring America’s School”
American Association of School Administrators

The word is out in West Germany about a new kind of school that is revolutionizing the way teachers teach and students learn – and leading educators in America as well as in West Germany, are taking note. The Koln-Holweide school, in Cologne, is a model school that is a radical departure from the overcrowded and impersonal “comprehensive” schools typical of that country. Already the pioneering efforts of this school appear to be paying off – the Koln-Holweide system has been adopted in twenty West German schools, with great success every time.

The Koln-Holweide school is making strides with students that would make any educator proud: only one percent of the school’s 2,000 students drop out annually as opposed to a national West German average of 14 percent. In addition, 60 percent, versus 27 percent nationally, score well enough on a high school exit exam to go on to a four-year college. The secret lies in a system that fosters bonds between teachers and students; where harmony is a goal, not a sifde effect. Here students learn from their fellow students and teachers learn from their fellow teachers. They exist in a very close-knit and planned “school community”.

The founders of Koln-Holweide felt resturcturing was needed to serve a large and diverse students body that was not responding to the traditional school setting. They wanted to impose a structure that would acknowledge the value of each student and, at the same time, provide an avenue through which students from very different backgrounds could work together to reach their potential. Toward this end, administrators of the school developed what they termed the “Team-Small-Group-Plan”.

Under this system, students are brought together in groups of 85 to 90 to be team-taught by six to eight teachers. Unlike most team-teaching in America, these groups stay together for a six-year period, thus enabling the students and teachers to form strong, lasting bonds. Within the teams, students are further divided into classes of 27 to 30 students, and then into “table” groups of five or six, where they engage in cooperative learning. These groups feel a sense of responsiblitity for one another; they come to know that successful individuals mean a successful group, and they help each other reach that goal. Mentoring and empowerment are the main characteristics of the Koln-Holweide staff. Teachers support one another by continually providing constructive feedback and suggestions. They serve as mentors for students, as well. According to Anne Ratzki, headmistress of the school, teachers are responsible “for the total education of their students, for making sure that their students succeed, personally and academically.”