Altered Classrooms: New Learning Setups

By Judy Molland

Are new learning setups - such as looping, ability grouping and single-sex classrooms - the answer to improving public education?

Altered Classrooms Defined

Same-Sex - Entire schools or just classrooms may be segregated by gender. In some coed schools, single-sex arrangements may be used for all classes or just one or two. Read more.

Looping - The practice of advancing a teacher from one grade level to the next along with his or her class. This allows a teacher to remain with the same, single-grade set of students for two years or more. Read more.

Tracking/Ability Grouping - Tracking has traditionally been defined as the practice of placing students in different classes based on perceived differences in their abilities. It still exists in middle and high schools, but in most elementary schools the practice has been supplanted by ability grouping: clustering students by achievement in specific subject areas like math and reading, within the same classroom, for part of the day. Ability grouping is sometimes implemented in a "fluid" manner. Read more.

Grouping at Your Child's School

If you're unsure about the classroom grouping practices at your child's school, ask the teacher or principal the following questions:

  • Is there any kind of grouping within the school?

  • At what grade does it begin?

  • How are decisions made about how students are grouped, and who is involved?

  • Are teacher assignments made with these groupings in mind?

  • Will I be notified if my child is grouped?

  • Are these groupings part of my child's written record?


National Alliance of Looping and Multiage Educators - 603-924-9621 - Offers a wealth of information on these two approaches.

National Association for Single Sex Public Education - This nonprofit organization is dedicated to the advancement of single-sex education.

Public Education Network (PEN)  - This national organization works to improve public schools.