22 Mar

From Kindergarten to Fifth Grade, upcoming class placements are a time of both great excitement as well as some apprehension.  “Who will I have next year?” is on every student’s mind, especially as a school year nears completion.  Likewise, “Who will be in my class?” conjures hopes and wishes that are only resolved when the class assignments are announced.

At Saint Mary’s, class placement is announced with the receipt of a final report card.  With very, very rare exceptions are class placements adjusted once announced.  An explanation of the process that determines class placement is helpful in understanding the reason for the near absolute finality of class placement decisions.

Current teachers are responsible for drafting class lists for the following year.  Factors such as an equal distribution of gender, student relationships (both positive and disruptive), student-teacher / teacher-learning style combinations, sibling experiences, special circumstances (i.e., a student entering  grade a parent is teaching), and personalities are considered by the teachers when making the lists, as well as input received from the parents.  No one factor is primary in this decision, and compromises are required given the weight of each factor attributed to each student.  Teachers report that creating class lists for next year is perhaps the most difficult task they undertake, as the complexity of the factors are carefully considered and discussed.

While it is common in many schools to discount or prohibit input from parents regarding class placements, Saint Mary’s offers an opportunity for parental input as one factor to be considered in the placement process.  Parents are asked to comment and provide helpful information related to their children.  For example, parents of twins help with an understanding of when to separate and when not to separate the siblings.  Parents are often helpful in providing information that might not otherwise be known by the current teacher, such as a family friendship with one of the next grade’s teachers.  Parent input is requested via an online survey at the end of the year.  Parent input is read by current teachers and others involved in the placement decisions, and is fully discussed by both sending and receiving teachers as placements are considered.  Please note that meeting with teachers to discuss placements for next year during the very busy last few weeks of a school year is not an effective way for parents to insure their input is taken into consideration.  Please use the written online opportunity to provide input to insure that your information is carefully shared with all involved in the placement decision.

What is not considered in the placement process is a request from a parent for a specific teacher.  While Saint Mary’s enjoys a high faculty retention rate, there simply is no guarantee that a teacher will be teaching the same grade level, or even that they will be at Saint Mary’s.  Students are placed by class, and there is no assumption made about who will be teaching that class next year.  Every effort is made to replace teachers by grade with a teacher with similar skills, expertise and teaching style.  However, caution must be taken not to allow students to “know” who their teacher will be next year.  There is no greater disappointment to a student than to walk into a classroom the first day of a new year to learn that “their teacher” transferred grades or moved out of state over the summer.  Parents, and students, should guard against requesting a specific teacher.  The assumption is that another teacher is less of a choice – devastating to a student who, due to an abundance of factors considered, is assigned the “other” teacher.  Parents are particularly helpful to their students when they affirm the final choice of class, and support the student’s enthusiasm for their next classroom experience.

Once placement decisions are announced with the distribution of final report cards, summer happens.  Teachers are not available to discuss the placement decisions, and the factors that were taken into account are not available.  Indeed, it is a giant jigsaw puzzle, with each child carefully placed in relation to all of the others in the class.  Any consideration of change creates a domino effect that undoes months of work, and typically results in less than optimal solutions considering all students affected.  For that reason, summer changes are not made, and the start of school is too late.

All who teach at Saint Mary’s welcome new students to their classroom during “meet the teacher” time as school begins for the new year.  It is an exciting time for students and an opportunity to make new friends and learn so many new things.  Welcome back!