WORTHINGTON, Ohio (AP) -- Elementary school teachers are trying a variation of the one-room schoolhouse by sticking with their students through two or three grade levels.
Educators say the teaching method -- called looping -- provides a stable learning environment in the critical years of development by allowing students to keep the same instructor.
''Teachers increasingly are trying looping as they become aware of the benefits to students,'' said Sylvia Seidel, director of the National Education Association's Teacher Education Initiative.
Schools nationwide, including some in Attleboro, Mass., Colorado Springs, Colo., and Sacramento, Calif., have reported positive looping results.
Some Ohio districts, including Worthington and East Cleveland, also are trying the practice.
''Kids need a lot of stability in the younger grades as they develop mentally. Change is very disruptive,'' said Rich Bates, principal at Worthington Park Elementary in this middle-class Columbus suburb. ''This is a way to make sure kids have some continuity in those years.''
Educators say looping also brings parents into the teacher-student relationship.
''It's really an extended partnership between the child, the parents and the teachers to make sure the child gets a solid education. It brings back an element I believe today's children are missing -- family structure and stability -- because it involves the parents,'' said Frederick Hampton, an associate professor of education at Cleveland State University who studied the use of looping in East Cleveland, a low-income Cleveland suburb.
However, as with any teaching method, looping has some potential drawbacks, educators say.
An instructor's teaching style might not work with a given student, a personality clash between a student and teacher might be prolonged, and students might not be exposed to as many adult viewpoints as they would be in a traditional class.
But both supporters and critics say that because of those drawbacks, parents always have the option of putting their children in a traditional class.
Several groups of teachers at Bates' school have used looping for the past four years. When Iris Morris moves her class from first grade to second grade, Kathy Schmidt takes over at first grade.
The two say they are able to use class time more productively in the second year because they can jump right into teaching.
''By eliminating the six weeks of get-to-know each other time, there is more time for instruction,'' Morris said.
Teachers already know each child, as well as each child's learning style, ability and competency. Likewise, students already are comfortable with the teacher and know the teacher's teaching style, expectations and rules.
That's what Jonathan Katz, 8, of Worthington, liked about having Morris as a teacher for two years.
''I was really happy about it because I knew everybody in our class and I knew her,'' he said.
However, he will start third grade in the fall with a new teacher.
''It will be weird, but I'll be fine. And I'll still see her (Morris) around,'' he said.
On the Net: National Teacher's Association: http://www.nea.org
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