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Students, teachers staying together from grade to grade a winning combination

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CASTLE ROCK, Colo. -- As students begin to approach the end of the school year some parents are beginning to hear more about the option of looping.

Looping is a term for a teacher and class that stays together from one grade to the next. It's a concept that's been around since education began, but a modern version has grown in popularity in recent years.

On her first day as a sixth grade teacher at Sage Canyon Elementary School in Castle Rock, Keely Vaughn simply picked up where she left off.

“We can kind of build our way up and build on what we’ve done the previous year,” Vaughn said.

After teaching fifth grade for several years, Ms. Vaughn was given the option to loop with her class last spring, meaning she moved up a grade in order to teach the same students. Despite a familiarity with the students, Vaughn had to take up a new curriculum.

"That’s been, personally for me, the biggest challenge is writing new projects and getting to know the content,” Vaughn said.

But a year later Vaughn says students have accomplished even more than she expected.

For many students, the difference this year came down to consistency.

“All of us stayed in the same class," said Nolan Ferguson. “That’s kind of a big thing for communicating and creativity.”

“We know each other really well and we can just kind of relate to each other I guess,” said Ashley Pepper.

The positive reviews don't stop with the students. Ashley Pepper's mom has also become a fan of looping.

“There was no question in my mind. The communication between (Ms. Vaughn) and our family, as well as how my daughter already felt about her as a teacher, it seemed like such a natural perfect fit,” said Heather Pepper.

Not every class at Sage Canyon is looped, and administrators say that is by design. Last year there were three classes that continued from one grade to the next and both teachers and students were given the option to participate or decline.

“I think it should be optional for the kids," Vaughn said. "I think it should be optional for the teachers and what they want to do.”

Though looping has existed for decades, there isn’t a great amount of data on its effectiveness. Many parents and teachers agree that its effectiveness all depends on the class and learning environment.

"I think it’s very important for parents to be able to choose what they think is best for their child,” said Heather Pepper. “For example, if she hadn’t had such a great relationship with Ms. Vaughn. Sometimes a teacher and a student aren’t always the best fit.”

In Ms. Vaughn's class it appears to be a winning formula.

“The first day that she said she was looping with us I was just like screaming," said Ashley Koenig. "I was so excited. It’s nice because she knows about you. She knows what you’re good at. She knows your strengths. She knows your weaknesses.”

“If we can give them those skills that they need to be successful and we can build on those two years in a row then that’s pretty powerful," Vaughn said.

So far, Sage Canyon has only had teachers loop with students once, for a total of two school years. Some other schools offer it for multiple grades. Though Heather Pepper is in favor of looping, she says she wouldn't want her daughter to do it for more than two years, so that she could learn a variety of teaching styles and learn to work with new classmates.


  • Elspeth

    “Sometimes a teacher and a student aren’t always the best fit.” If a particular student and teacher aren’t a good fit…why wait a WHOLE YEAR to fix the situation? We currently torture students with this situation. And no, it isn’t “real life.” These kids are learning fundamental skills that will effect the rest of their lives and they are FORCED to go to school. Employees CHOOSE which companies to work for and therefore choose their bosses. If you cannot stand your boss you can CHOOSE to leave. If you can fix the situation in school by making certain that students can change teachers from year to year there is simply no reason that a bad fit cannot be fixed sooner than annually.

  • Heather

    I had the same teacher (most of the same classmates) for 4th and 5th grade. I found it to be a really positive experience. I was naturally a very shy child, but being around the same people for a second year helped me build the confidence to speak up in class and participate more. There was a level of trust and comfort that I likely would not have found in a different environment with a new teach and new classmates. The experience helped build my social skills, which only further enhanced my academic performance. I do agree with the parent in the story though, you don’t want to do it for too many years because a student needs to experience several different teaching styles in order to adequately prepare for high school and college.

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