Welcome to high school – in the third grade. Elementary schools across America are turning to specialized classes after second grade (and in some schools, kindergarten) to increase time spent on subjects like math and reading.
Departmentalizing classes, also known as “platooning,” became commonplace after the No Child Left Behind Act in 2002 added pressure on schools to raise test scores. With Common Core curriculum now expecting sharper skill sets from younger students, more schools are using the platooning method and teachers are moving from generalists to specialists, putting kids in two to four classes a day.
The idea is this: students will have more time to learn a subject in-depth from a specialized teacher. Grades will improve and teachers’ job satisfaction will increase as they spend time teaching their favorite subject. This idea has come to fruition in certain areas.
Amanda Alexander, a regional superintendent for Washington, D.C. schools, oversaw the departmentalizing of her 12 schools. In just three years the gains in test scores outpaced those of the entire school system.
Many, however, aren’t ready to follow her lead.
Social interaction is a major concern with platooning. Educators worry that students and teachers will not have enough time to bond. Teachers may spend as little as one hour with their students and in exchange take on more pupils than normal. These concerns are why platooning is not widespread in America, but the idea is still gaining traction.
Even so, fans of the program want to keep kindergarten through second grade as is. Many parents and teachers believe that while education is important, play time and teacher/student bonding are still important factors in a younger kid’s life that can only come from one central classroom.