Elementary school students reap academic benefits when assigned to the same teacher for two years in a row, according to new research in the journal Economics of Education Review.
Researchers Andrew J. Hill of Montana State University and Daniel B. Jones of the University of South Carolina studied the impact on standardized math and reading scores of the practice commonly called “looping,” in which some portion or all of a class are assigned to the same teacher for consecutive grades.
Studying data on 3rd- through 5th-grade students and their teachers from public schools in North Carolina, the researcher found approximately 60,000 students and 7,000 teachers who matched up for two years in a row. Some of the matches involved 80 percent or more of a class while others involved only 20 percent of a class advancing to the next grade with the same teacher.
On average, the researchers found that 4th- and 5th-graders who had the same teacher for two consecutive years scored higher than other students on end-of-grade tests in math and reading in the second year, with the biggest gains in math. The benefits of looping, the researchers found, were larger than those achieved by having a student taught by a teacher of the same race as the student.
Students benefited from having the same teacher for two consecutive years regardless of whether their classmates also had the same teacher. In classes where 20 percent or less of students had the same teacher for a second year, there was no spillover effect on their classmates. But once the share of students with the same teacher for a second year reached 40 percent or more, all the students benefited, including those new to the class and the teacher.
The results held regardless of student demographics, school size, teacher experience, teacher quality or match on race or gender between student and teacher.
The researchers speculate that looping allows for the formation of deeper relationships so teachers have more time to concentrate on instructional strategies. The familiar relationship also helps with classroom management, resulting in a better learning environment.