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Cape Elizabeth 5th-grade teachers will follow kids to 6th grade

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Cape Elizabeth 5th-grade teachers will follow kids to 6th grade

CAPE ELIZABETH — The current fifth-grade students of teachers Adam Killip and Elizabeth Johnston will take two unusual things with them into their sixth-grade school year – their teachers.

As presented to the Cape Elizabeth School Board last week, the fifth-grade teaching team is set to begin "looping" with the sixth-grade team of Joe Doane and Claire Ramsbotham. That means their students will have the same teachers for two consecutive years.

Studies have shown that students of "looped" teachers get the equivalent of 2.25 years of teaching in two years, middle school Principal Steve Connolly told the School Board, because teachers and students don't have to spend the first few months of the second year adjusting to each other.

Using the new teaching model for fifth- and sixth-graders is a very "natural point," Killip added, because it will help transition those students into middle school. "What student couldn't benefit from consistency?," he said.

Students currently under the teaching team of Killip, who teaches math and science, and Johnston, who teaches social studies and language arts, are being given the option of switching to a different set of teachers if parents have doubts about the new model. But Killip and Connolly said they've heard very few concerns.

Students not in Killip and Johnston's classes will not be able to request being put in the looped group, Connolly said, because everyone deserves a fair chance at being moved into the group, if shifting is needed to accommodate class sizes.

Connolly said he hopes the model can expand after the pilot year, and mentioned that two other fifth-grade teaching teams have expressed an interest in trying it out if their sixth-grade counterparts agree.

Killip and Johnston were natural pilot teachers, he said, because they brought up the idea and because both have experience teaching sixth-graders. Killip has also already had experience with looping elsewhere.

According to a report on the school Web site, looping has been tried once before at the elementary level, but it didn't last long because it was hard to support teacher partnering at that level, regardless of how much the participating teachers enjoyed doing it.

Connolly said he plans to collect data over the first middle school attempt at looping and report back to the board about teacher, student, and school experiences.

Killip told the School Board he's especially excited to try out the new model at the middle school, because it will allow him to delve into a different curriculum every other year. "If I teach (one thing) for too long, I'll get stagnant," he said. "I'm looking forward to being a little more on my toes."

The looping model "is a progressive thing to do," Killip said, "which is something we could use a whole lot more of."

Sarah Trent can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 108 or strent@theforecaster.net.