The months after spring break are usually the time when teachers in every school across America look forward to crystallizing an entire year’s worth of human connection, learning and special classroom memories. The pandemic and the stay-at-home orders have brought an abrupt end to these milestones that usually define the school year.
But I believe that we can choose to finish what we started and give these last two months back to our students. When this summer ends and the next school year begins, we can choose to welcome our students back to the same teacher, but in the next grade level.
Yes, we can choose to loop.
The Positive Effects of Looping
Looping is when an educator continues teaching their current class into the next grade level. I looped with Jaachi, Karthik, Annaliesa, Claudia, Anasol and 60 other students through middle school and high school. This powerful experience influenced me to go from calculus to kindergarten in order to investigate how looping impacted kids in primary grades.
In 2018, I looped with Josue, Maliyah, and our entire Kindergarten class to 1st grade because of what we know about positive child-adult relationships in early childhood development. We see conclusive research and personal anecdotes nationwide about looping’s positive effects, yet adoption remains frustratingly low—only one in 50 kids will likely have the opportunity to learn from the same teacher next year.
When I began my career as a high school teacher 10 years ago, Laura was an 11th grader who lacked confidence in her math skills. However, she knew I would teach her again in 12th grade, so she challenged herself to enroll in collegiate-rigor calculus as a high school senior. Because I knew she worked best with a content-overview video before each lesson along with a copy of class notes, I was able to provide these supports for her on day one when we looped together. Not only did she soar that year, but the skills she gained gave her the confidence to unleash her inner entrepreneur—she is now the head of strategic partnerships for a clean-energy transportation company that she helped to create.
Personal relationships, which take time to cultivate, lead to academic growth and character development. When I met Brandon in Kindergarten in 2018, he was unfamiliar with the alphabet and didn’t know how to use numbers. On day one of first grade in 2019, I could begin right where we left off the year before. I knew that Brandon was ready for more complex letter sounds like “ch” and that we could begin with addition and subtraction to 20. The relationship and trust we developed led to huge growth for Brandon this year, and I’ll be able to pick up with him exactly where we left off when we return to class for the 2020-21 school year. This is because I’m looping again with Brandon and our class to 2nd grade.
These are real stories that form the backbone of why principals and district leaders should choose looping as a key staffing strategy at their schools for the 2020-21 school year. For districts, master schedules should be created with continuity in mind and could include a survey to determine who within their ranks would be interested in teaching their current class in the next grade level.
Districts could then use that information to create a master schedule that allows as many teachers as possible to loop during the next academic year. Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) predicts summer learning loss to be exacerbated as a result of COVID closures. Looping is a research-backed staffing strategy to help mitigate this nationwide disruption.
This upcoming school year, there will be 60 million school-aged kids like Brandon and Laura who will need continuity and teachers to know how to reach them on day one. That’s why we need looping now more than ever.