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REL Midwest Ask A REL Response

Literacy & Math

April 2018

Question:

What does the research say about the impact of teacher “looping” on academic achievement and peer relationships at the elementary school level? Are there any differences for students of color?



Response:

Following an established Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Midwest protocol, we conducted a search for research reports and descriptive studies on the impact of looping on academic achievement and peer relationships at the elementary school level. The ERIC database defines looping teachers as the “practice in which a teacher moves with his or her students to the next grade level—some loops are two consecutive years with the same group of students, while others may be three or more years with the same group.” For details on the databases and sources, keywords, and selection criteria used to create this response, please see the Methods section at the end of this memo.

Below, we share a sampling of the publicly accessible resources on this topic. References are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance. The search conducted is not comprehensive; other relevant references and resources may exist. For each reference, we provide an abstract, excerpt, or summary written by the study’s author or publisher. We have not evaluated the quality of these references, but provide them for your information only.

Research References

Burke, D. L. (1997). Looping: Adding time, strengthening relationships. ERIC Digest. Washington, DC: Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED414098

From the ERIC abstract: “‘Looping’ is an essentially simple concept: a teacher moves with his or her students to the next grade level, rather than sending them to another teacher at the end of the school year. This Digest explores the practitioners’ perspectives on looping, the experience of European school systems, and research on looping. Practitioners report positive effects on both student academic achievement and parental involvement as a result of looping. Others cite time saved in skills assessment, the additional month of learning at the beginning of year two, deeper relationships developed with both students and parents, and the particular benefits afforded shy students as beneficial aspects. A looping classroom with an effective summer component also offers benefits similar to those of year-round schools with respect to momentum and continuity of instruction. Italian preschools, considered by some the best in the world, use a model of three-year assignments of students to teachers. Some German schools use multi-year teacher-student groupings for as long as 6 years, and credit the extended relationship time with assisting students in making the necessary brain connections learning requires. Research studies have found that students in multi-year programs exhibited higher reading and mathematics achievement scores on standardized tests than did students in the traditional grade organization. Teachers have also reported that teaching the same students for 3 years allowed them to use more positive approaches to classroom management. Another study found that students in an extended relationship school were less likely to report disliking school or to find it ‘boring.’ Additionally, these students outperformed their counterparts in the traditional school on basic skills tests. The only potential disadvantage of looping regularly mentioned is an inappropriate match, or personality conflict, between teacher and student—a situation that can occur in a traditional classroom as well.”

Note: REL Midwest recognizes that this reference is more than 15 years old, but believes it should be included due to its relevance and the limited number of full-text references available for this topic.

Butzin, S. M., Carroll, R., & Lutz, B. (2006). Letting teachers specialize. Educational Leadership, 63(8), 73–75. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ745615

From the ERIC abstract: “Six years ago, South Heights Elementary School was the lowest-performing school in Kentucky’s Henderson County School District. Teachers blamed poverty lack of parent involvement, poor discipline, and high staff turnover for the situation. Few expected to meet the state goals. Yet by 2004, South Heights was the fifth-highest-performing school in the district. In this article, the authors relate how the school embraced an instructional model called Project CHILD (Changing How Instruction for Learning is Delivered) to turn around its performance. Project CHILD restructures how teachers manage time. Students from various designated grade levels are all taught core academic subjects by one teacher designated for that subject, and are sometimes taught in multi-age groupings. Students keep the same teacher for that subject for three years.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

Cistone, P., & Shneyderman, A. (2004). Looping: An empirical evaluation. International Journal of Educational Policy, Research, and Practice: Reconceptualizing Childhood Studies, 5(1), 47–61. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ795197

From the ERIC abstract: “Looping is the practice in which a teacher instructs the same group of students for at least two school years, following them from one grade level to the next. Once a ‘loop’ of two or more years is completed, the teacher may start a new loop teaching a new group of students. This evaluation study of the practice of looping in a large urban school system was intended to explore its effect on student instructional outcomes, attendance, and retention rates, as well as to assess principals’ and teachers’ reactions to looping. The results indicated that, with respect to academic achievement, the Looping Sample outperformed their counterparts in the Matching Sample. Looping had a positive effect on student attendance and students in the Looping Sample had a significantly greater chance of being promoted to the next grade level. Principals and teachers were in high agreement that looping had a positive effect on student learning in their schools.”

Elliott, D. C., & Capp, R. (2003). The gift of time. Leadership, 33(2), 34–36. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ677903

From the ERIC abstract: “Describes looping or multiage, multiyear teaching at two elementary schools (Rocklin and Sierra) in the Rocklin Unified School District in Pacer County, California. Includes several Internet sources about looping.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

Franz, D. P., Thompson, N. L., Fuller, B., Hare, R. D., Miller, N. C., & Walker, J. (2010). Evaluating mathematics achievement of middle school students in a looping environment. School Science and Mathematics, 110(6), 298–308. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ915556

From the ERIC abstract: “Looping, a school structure where students remain with one group of teachers for two or more school years, is used by middle schools to meet the diverse needs of young adolescents. However, little research exists on how looping effects the academic performance of students. This study was designed to determine if looping influenced middle school students’ mathematical academic achievement. Student scores on the Mississippi Curriculum Test (MCT) were compared between sixth and eighth grade years for 69 students who looped during the seventh and eighth grades with a group of 137 students who did not loop. Looping students achieved statistically significantly greater growth on the MCT than their nonlooping counterparts between sixth and eighth grades. Further, the data were disaggregated by gender, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. Findings indicate that looping may academically reengage students during the middle school years. Advantages and disadvantages of looping at the middle grades are discussed.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

Hill, A. J., & Jones, D. B. (2018). A teacher who knows me: The academic benefits of repeat student-teacher matches. Economics of Education Review, 64, 1–12. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0272775717306635

From the abstract: “We provide new empirical evidence that increased student-teacher familiarity improves academic achievement in elementary school. Drawing on rich statewide administrative data, we observe small but significant test score gains for students assigned to the same teacher for a second time in a higher grade. We control for selection into repeat student-teacher matches with teacher fixed effects and either student fixed effects or flexible controls for student past achievement. The effects are largest for minorities, and there is some evidence that gains are most evident for students with generally less effective teachers (as measured by value-added). We also provide suggestive evidence of spillover benefits: students assigned to classes in which a large share of classmates are in repeat student-teacher matches experience gains even if not previously assigned to that teacher themselves. This suggests that effects at least partly operate through improvements in the general classroom learning environment. Overall, our findings indicate that there may be potential low-cost gains from the policy of “looping” in which students and teachers progress through early school grades together, and may explain the recent experimental evidence that teacher specialization has negative effects on student achievement given that this likely decreases student-teacher familiarity.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

Lindsay, L. A., Irving, M. A., Tanner, T., & Underdue, D. (2008). In the loop: An examination of the effectiveness of looping for African American students. National Journal of Urban Education & Practice, 1(4), 334–345. Retrieved from http://www.academia.edu/11930443/In_the_Loop_An_Examination_of_the_Effectiveness_of_Looping_for_African_American_Students

From the abstract: “Looping is an instructional method that can help teachers to develop and maintain a stronger influence on African American students’ educational development (Nichols & Nichols, 2001). Through looping a single teacher provides instruction for a single group of students for two or more consecutive years. The purpose of this mixed methods study is to better understand the effectiveness of looping on African American students’ achievement. Results of the study are shared.”

Nevin, A. I., Cramer, E., Voigt, J., & Salazar, L. (2008). Instructional modifications, adaptations, and accommodations of coteachers who loop: A descriptive case study. Teacher Education and Special Education, 31(4), 283–297. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ864024

From the ERIC abstract: “When teachers move to the next grade with their students, they are sometimes referred to as teachers who loop with the children. In this descriptive case study, the authors describe the experiences of two teachers who collaborate with others as they move with a class of students from third to fourth grade (i.e., looping). The classroom context, coteaching procedures, and outcomes combine to illustrate how children with disabilities are provided access to the general education curriculum in an urban multicultural school. Results show both academic gains and social benefits for the students involved in this classroom. The concepts of coteaching and looping may inform teacher educators who prepare general and special education teachers to comply with state and federal mandates on behalf of students with disabilities in the general education setting, students who are learning English as a second language, and students who may be at risk for failure.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

Northeast and Islands Regional Educational Lab. (1997). Looping: Supporting student learning through long-term relationships. Providence, RI: Author. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED428832

From the ERIC abstract: “Looping refers to the increasingly common practice of keeping groups of students together for two or more years with the same teacher. This booklet, first in a series of ‘Themes in Education’ provides information on the educational practice of looping and includes selected current references on the topic. The booklet outlines the history of this practice, delineates its operating principles, differentiates looping from multi-age placement, and describes the academic and social benefits of the practice. Using a question and answer format, the booklet also answers questions commonly asked by parents, students, teachers, and administrators about looping.”

Note: REL Midwest recognizes that this reference is more than 15 years old, but believes it should be included due to its relevance and the limited number of full-text references available for this topic.

Ovalle, R. A. (2004). Why isn’t looping a more common practice? A leadership case study. International Journal of Educational Reform, 13(2), 136–142. Retrieved from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ848676

From the ERIC abstract: “One alternative to a traditional class is a looping class. What is ‘looping’? As described in the educational literature, looping is a practice that allows teachers to remain with their class for a period of two or more years. Looping has proved to be an effective process that increases student achievement, supports instructional time, and provides enhanced teacher-student relationship. Studies on school effectiveness have indicated that long-term teacher/student relationships support both student performance and teacher satisfaction. Looping has some disadvantages, like any instructional practice, but the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. One of the major disadvantages of looping involves having to learn a new curriculum each year. If a teacher completes a 3-year loop, he or she will have to master three different curriculums in 3 years. In addition, the teacher must be knowledgeable about children’s developmental needs in each grade level. These looping responsibilities placed on the teacher, in addition to one’s normal school concerns, can prove overwhelming for many. In this case study the author discusses some of the major advantages of looping and shows that the practice of looping classes can result in higher achievement scores.“

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

Methods

Keywords and Search Strings

The following keywords and search strings were used to search the reference databases and other sources:

  • Descriptor: Looping (Teachers)

  • Looping

  • Repeat student-teacher matches

Databases and Search Engines

We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of more than 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). Additionally, we searched IES and Google Scholar.

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When we were searching and reviewing resources, we considered the following criteria:

  • Date of the publication: References and resources published over the last 15 years, from 2002 to present, were include in the search and review.

  • Search priorities of reference sources: Search priority is given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations.

  • Methodology: We used the following methodological priorities/considerations in the review and selection of the references: (a) study types—randomized control trials, quasi-experiments, surveys, descriptive data analyses, literature reviews, policy briefs, and so forth, generally in this order, (b) target population, samples (e.g., representativeness of the target population, sample size, volunteered or randomly selected), study duration, and so forth, and (c) limitations, generalizability of the findings and conclusions, and so forth.
This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by educational stakeholders in the Midwest Region (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin), which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL Region) at American Institutes for Research. This memorandum was prepared by REL Midwest under a contract with the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Contract ED-IES-17-C-0007, administered by American Institutes for Research. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.