"Looping" May Go Away at McPherson's RES

By Jolyn Johnston-Myers
December 05, 2016

Roosevelt Elementary School (RES) in McPherson follows a different model than the other elementary schools in the district. That may soon change.

Back in the 90s, Roosevelt started following a “continuous progress multi-age” model, which combined two grades into one classroom. In 2005, Roosevelt also began looping the grades, which keeps a class with the same teacher for two years.

In 2012, the school invited a team from Wichita State University to conduct an action-research study to help them decide which model they should follow.

“We had some multi-age classes, and some looping classes,” explained Todd Beam, principle of RES. "We wanted clarity on if we were going to be a looping building, or a continuous-progress building.”

Beam told school board members last week that at the time of the study, the looping model was favored over the multi-age model, though by a narrow margin.

Today, the school is considering dropping both and going back to a strictly straight-grade model and doing away with looping altogether.

“When we looked at this last time, we had probably a mix in our staff of who supported looping and who supported straight-grade level,” Beam said. “And that has [now] changed.”

Last year, Beam put together a committee to examine the looping model at Roosevelt. They discussed the different challenges, like the struggle for teachers to master two curriculums and to maintain relationships with other teachers, since Roosevelt is the only school in McPherson to follow a looping model.

“Even when emails go out from other buildings, they’ll usually send to me because they don’t even know who’s teaching that grade level that year,” Beam said. “RES teachers feel like they’re asked to work twice as hard, but yet not compensated. They also are concerned that if looping is the best model, then why aren’t the three other elementary [schools] looping buildings?”

Beam went on to describe how passionate Roosevelt teachers are about what they do.

“They love their job, and they feel like this model is impeding their performance in this job,” he said.

Beam told board members that the vast majority of Roosevelt teachers no longer want to loop. He also said parents have not expressed strong opinions for or against looping, but that he’d be glad to speak to anyone with any concerns or questions.

“I would invite them to come in and have those discussions if there was a deep concern,” said Beam.

“If we were to recommend today, it’s likely that we would recommend looping be discontinued the beginning of the 2017-18 school year.”

Beam also said that Roosevelt would take steps to ensure that the connections between teachers and students and their families would be maintained should they drop the looping model and go back to straight-grade.

“The biggest negative from going away from looping is the relationship piece, and I think that’s one that they’re very cognizant of, and want to put measures in place so that’s not an issue.

“We don’t feel that we would lose the relationship piece,” Beam clarified, “But just make that one of our priorities if we were to go to straight-grade levels; making the relationship piece very valued.”

Principal Beam and Roosevelt staff will have further discussions with the school board about whether or not to discontinue looping at Roosevelt, but no decisions will be made until early next year.

The first school board meeting next year is scheduled for Monday night, January 9, beginning at 7:00 pm. Board meetings are always open for public attendance and input.