Term Paper: Looping on At-Risk Children Absract

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[. . .] The end of the school year is not characterized as the ending of a class, but instead as the beginning of a longer break.

Among the most frequently mentioned benefits of looping are: the relationships that develop; the use of time; the possibility of increased academic achievement; the development of a cohesive curriculum; and the stability offered by looping.

At the heart of a successful looping classroom are the continuity of relationships and the learning environment" (Forsten et al., 1997, p. 13). Teachers with experience in looping say that an extended period with children allows for more bonding opportunities than the regular classroom.

Speaking as a looping teacher, Liu (1997) stresses the importance of the relationships between teachers and students as being crucial to students' academic and psychological development. According to Liu, the longer student-teacher relationships last, the greater chance they have of positive influence.

Hampton et al. (1997) studied teachers as they began the second or third year with a preexisting knowledge of each child's abilities and personality and of the child's home life. The teachers could use the individual strengths and weaknesses of the children to help them achieve their goals.

These teachers "did not feel compelled to drag students through material that should be covered in a particular grade. Students work toward understanding and mastery -- surpassing grade-level expectations in some areas, while they are given more time to mature in others" (p. 8).

Stability was a common theme in the discussions of teachers as they spoke of looping.. Simel (1998) recorded teachers' reactions to looping. One teacher described what she believed, "The child feels like school is a second home.... You can tell by the way they act" (p. 336). Another teacher said, "Half these kids call me mom because I don't think they get it at home, the stability. So I guess this will be a great stable environment for kids who don't have that at home" (p. 336).

According to Lincoln (1997), a school official, stability is important in today's society, where adult-child relationships tend to be weak, due to such conditions as single parenthood, blended families, and families where both parents work.

Looping provides an additional measure of stability by strengthening relationships between students and teachers. (p. 58) "For students with special problems, social or academic, teachers viewed looping as offering stability that is vital to their progress" (p. 24).

Over 20% of America's children now live at or below the poverty level; nearly 8,200 cases of child abuse and neglect are reported each day; well over a million children are "latchkey kids" and on any given day, there are an estimated 100,000 homeless children. Add to this list the increased number of children undernourished or malnourished, chemically damaged by drugs and fear, or traumatized by family instability, and it's easy to see how the Carnegie Foundation concluded that 35% of America's children come to school unprepared to learn. The rising interest in multiage and looping classrooms is in direct response to the diverse needs of today's children." (Forsten, p. 15)

Looping helps to create a school environment where all students feel an equal sense of value and belonging. This environment has proven itself to help at-risk students succeed. Research shows that consistency and continuity spanning two or more years were key elements in individual success stories of at-risk children.

Students with difficult home lives can feel more stability and trust with an adult who stays in their lives longer than the typical one-year classroom teacher. The classroom atmosphere the second year, becomes one of familiarity where routines, discipline plans, and expectations are predictable.

According to Patricia Crosby, a 7th and 8th grade language arts and social studies teacher, the trust a student has in a teacher can become even more important as children become adolescents (Rasmussen, 1998). "They ask you questions they don't always think they can ask their parents. And because you know them so well you can observe any changes in behavior that might indicate problems, such as drug or alcohol abuse." (Rasmussen, 1998).

Crosby believes that many adolescent lives have been saved because of a strong relationship with a mentor, often a teacher, and that looping is an excellent way to present students with the opportunity to develop a bond with teachers who remain with them for more than one year. (Rasmussen).

According to Jan Jubert, a 1st and 2nd grade teacher, looping "provides opportunities for students who might otherwise fall through the cracks of the education system." (Rasmussen, p. 28).

Of Jubert's 15 students, the majority come from low socioeconomic backgrounds and is identified as at-risk students. On of the students in the class is deaf and needs an interpreter.

In addition, the ability levels of the students range from disabled to gifted and talented. Jubert is confident that equal opportunity, which requires equal education, enables her students to set and reach their life goals, and that looping strongly supports equal education. (Rasmussen).

Children today join gangs because they want to feel they are a part of a group and feel accepted," says Jubert. "Looping makes children feel secure. At-risk kids are starving for this." (Rasmussen, p. 28).

Due to the fact that a lot of parents today are single parents, or work more than one job, students lack bonds with adults. Because it usually takes teachers at least a year to develop a level of trust with students, students often do not develop bonds with their teachers. However, if a student spends two or three years with a teacher, they really get to know and trust them. As a result, students benefit from the time and high-quality instruction needed to succeed. (Rasmussen).

In Jubert's case, she has more time to teach and can consider the individual needs of each student. Therefore, she "covers more material, offers more hands-on activities to her students, and designs activities using multiple intelligences theories that will help children learn the way they learn best." She cites high attendance, increased test scores, improved self-esteem, and a love of learning as the results of looping. (Rasmussen, p. 28).

An additional benefit of looping for at-risk students is that their parents tend to feel more comfortable talking to teachers. As parents get to know teachers, they relax more and view them as caring human beings. As a result, they can communicate with the teachers on a deeper level.

When a good relationship between parents and teachers is established, at-risk students benefit because the adults learn how o help each other to ultimately help the children.

D. Hypothesis

Studies show that one of the most critical factors influencing the positive development of at-risk children is attachment to at least one adult who believes in the child and provides acceptance and support for the child (Hawkins, 1995).

Pro-social behavior often occurs when children bond with pro-social adults, such as parents and teachers, adopting their beliefs and values (Hawkins). On the other hand, antisocial behavior occurs when children bond to antisocial individuals, like gang members, adopting their beliefs and values.

For positive bonding to occur, there must be an opportunity for bonding to take place, as well as cognitive and social skills to support the bonding opportunities and a consistent system of recognition and reinforcement for accomplishments (Hawkins).

A resilient temperament, social competence, and cognitive skills all serve as protective factors that help children participate successfully in positive bonding opportunities. Recognition reinforces right from wrong and provides an incentive for bonding.

Without looping, on the first day of every school year, teachers must learn a whole new set of names and work toward helping the students understand classroom procedures. Students need time to learn and understand the requirements and goals of a new teacher. With looping, teachers simply take attendance and start teaching.

In many schools, looping is implemented to help teachers deal with the difficulties of dealing with at-risk children due to the short time they had to work with these students.

Without looping, teachers complained that just when they felt they knew these students enough to respond to their strengths, weaknesses, unique talents and learning styles, they had to pass them along to another teacher.

The benefits of looping include the flexibility that gives a teacher the opportunity to use topics and experiences from the previous year. Another benefit is enhanced bonding, between teachers, students and parents. For example, a teacher that is going into her second year with her class will be able to ask them personal questions rather than simply "What is your name?"

For at-risk children, this bonding is crucial. Research shows that attachment to just one caring, responsible adult works wonders in helping at-risk children. A recent study of the effects of remediation on delinquency showed that the child's bond with the tutor affected school attitude and behavior more significantly than improved grades (Keilitz, 1986).

This research paper aims to prove that looping helps at-risk students form attachments to school and positive role models.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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