Keeping students and teachers together in successive grades

Placing students with the same teacher for more than one year is rare in the United States. Despite research indicating that long-term relationships between teachers and students are effective for increasing the students’ performance and the teachers’ job satisfaction, American schools seldom use multi-year placements, reports Daniel L. Burke, Superintendent, Antioch, Illinois, School District.

Teachers who had taught the same group of students for three years told researchers that the experience was the “most satisfying” of their professional lives because it allowed them to see great change and growth in their students. Seventy percent of teachers in another study reported that three years with the same students enabled them to use more positive classroom management and that their students were more willing to participate voluntarily in class.

Better relationships with parents

Eighty-five percent reported that more of their students saw themselves as important members of a group and felt more pride in themselves and their school. Ninety-two percent said they knew their students better and had better relationships with parents. In addition, three-quarters stated they felt increased empathy with their fellow teachers.

Research indicates that students’ response to multi-year placements grows more positive with each year with the same teacher. And when parents are allowed to select teachers for their children, 99 percent request the same teacher.

Research from abroad supports these findings. Some comprehensive schools in West Germany keep teachers and students together for six years. The headmistress of one of these schools said that she has never found it necessary to switch a student from one teacher to another because of serious personality conflicts. She also reports that students don’t lose weeks every September learning a new set of rules and expectations. Best of all, “teachers get to know how each student learns…and the importance of this is incalculable.”

Pilot projects in the United States are encouraging. In one of the largest studies, the Attleboro, Massachusetts, School District phased in two-year placements in all elementary and middle schools. The district’s high schools are phasing in a similar model. Teachers are very enthusiastic about the experience so far. Minnesota researchers report that their expectations to improve student attendance, increase student involvement in school activities, raise students’ grade-point averages and increase parents’ interest in education have been realized.

Burke suggests that multi-year placements merit serious discussion and more widespread testing.

“Multi-Year Teacher/Student Relationships Are a Long-Overdue Arrangement” Phi Delta Kappan Volume 77, Number 5, January 1996 pp.360-361.

Published in ERN March/April 1996 Volume 9 Number 2


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