What Is Looping?
You may already have heard of looping under another name such as “continuous
learning,” “continuous progress,” “persisting groups,” “multi-year grouping,”
“teacher/student progression,” or a number of other terms. Looping, a term
coined by Jim Grant, author of “The Looping Handbook,” refers to the not-so-new
but increasingly common practice of keeping groups of students together for two
or more years with the same teacher.

The History of Looping
Looping has been around for a while in various forms. Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian
educator and philosopher living in Germany in the early 1900s, founded the
Waldorf Schools. These schools educated the children of the Waldorf-Astoria
cigarette factory workers. Steiner believed that a long-term relationship with the
teacher was beneficial to children. Waldorf teachers stayed with their students
from grades one through eight. Today in Germany, students and teachers stay
together from grades one through four. “Shall teachers in graded city schools be
advanced from grade to grade with their pupils through a series of two, three,
four, or more years, so that they may come to know the children they teach and be
able to build the work of the latter years on that of the earlier years...?” This
question was posed in a memo by the U.S. Department of Education in 1913.
The memo went on to discuss the advantages of such a class structure, outlining
some of the same advantages of looping that teachers today are noticing. (Grant,
Johnson, & Richardson, 1996). Deborah Meter, an award-winning New York City
educator and the author of The Power of Their Ideas, began using multi-year
assignments in her school in 1974. She considers looping essential because it
allows the teachers and students to get to know one another well.
Today, many teachers, administrators, and superintendents are “rediscovering”
the logic behind multiyear placements.
Operating Principles
(WYNNE & WALBERG, 1975; GRANT, ET AL., 1996)
Schools keep groups of students together over long periods of  time. The size of
the groups is not as important as the continuity from year to year.

The teacher is “promoted” along with the students to the next grade.

The period of time students and teachers stay together is determined by the
school personnel. Groups in some districts have stayed together for anywhere
from two to five years, although two years seems to be the term most
frequently recommended and employed.

Preparing the teachers adequately for their “new” curriculum yields the best

Teachers gain extra teaching time. “Getting-to-know-you” time becomes virtually
unnecessary during the second year. We don’t lose several weeks each
September learning a new set of names, teaching the basic rules to a new set of
students, figuring out exactly what they learned the previous year; and we don’t
lose weeks at the end of the year packing students back up. (Ratzki, 1988).

Teacher knowledge about a child’s intellectual strengths and weaknesses
increases in a way that is impossible to achieve in a single year. I had watched my
students’ skills emerge and solidify. I was able to reinforce those skills in a style
that was consistent over two years. (Jacoby, 1994). “Long term teacher/student
relationships improve… student performance.” (George, 1987). Standardized test
scores have gone up since the school opened six years ago. While these results
can’t be linked to one particular program, certainly program consistency is
one contributing factor. — Joe Belmonte, principal, in Multi-Year Education:
Reaping the Benefits of Looping. (Checkley, 1995b).

“Long term teacher/student relationships improve job satisfaction for teachers.”
(George & Oldaker, 1985). According to Maryann Pour Previti, principal of
Worcester (MA) Central Catholic Elementary School, the teachers spending two
years with the same students are “the happiest people in my building.” (Burke,

Multi-year teaching offers tremendous possibilities for summertime learning, such
as summer reading lists, miniprojects, and field trips. The thought of being able to
‘keep the ball rolling’ during the summer recess seemed a logical and
educationally sound idea. (Killough, 1996).

Students have reduced apprehension about the new school year and the new
teacher after the first year. (Hanson, 1995; Checkley, 1995a). This is the best first
day of school. I can be with my teacher from last year. I can see my friends. I like
school.  Larry, a fourth grader (Hanson, 1995).

Students reap benefits from time spent on developing social skills and
cooperative group strategies in subsequent years. (Hanson, 1995). After being
together for two years, some of the kids I didn’t know as well, or get along with as
well, I get along with better now than I did before. —Jason, an eighth grader
(Grant, et al., 1996).

Looping permits students to get to know one another well, facilitating social
construction of knowledge. (Zahorik and Dichanz, 1994). Students are better able
to resolve conflicts and they are more skillful in working as team members to solve
problems. (Hanson, 1995).

Long term relationships result in an emotional and intellectual climate that
encourages thinking, risk-taking, and involvement. (Marzano, 1992;
Zahorik/Dichanz, 1994).
The students have learned to take risks because they trust each other. — April
Schilb, teacher (Checkley, 1995).

English language learners adjust to their new school and become comfortable
with their teacher, developing confidence in their newly acquired language.
(Haslinger, Kelly & O’Lare, 1996). They [the students] begin to share stories and
customs from their countries, resulting in global understanding and respect
among all the students. (Haslinger, Kelly & O’Lare, 1996).

Looping encourages a stronger sense of community and family among parents,
students, and teachers. (Checkley, 1995). It’s a big school, and having the same
parents for two years makes it easier to think of the school as a neighborhood
school, because you get to know the families that much more. —Phyllis Sisson,
teacher (Grant, et al., 1996).

Parents embrace looping once they understand its benefits. It was a very pleasant
experience. I just hope the rest of our school years can be as nice as this one has
been. — Sheila Green, parent (Grant, et al., 1996).
Understanding the Looping