Fewer Teachers Increase Curricular Impact

March 20, 2019

For the past 20-30 years, an increasing number of school districts have split their K-5 primary schools into lower and upper grade level bands.  Districts with two elementary schools, for example, have reconfigured into separate K-2 and 3-5 buildings, centralizing human and educational resources.  Although economically logical, this shift is mathematically problematic, because the consolidation multiplies the number of teachers building the program. 

A Math instructor’s job is to identify student misunderstandings, helping them fill in comprehension gaps while illuminating connections between different parts of the curriculum.  Pedagogical coherency minimizes the former and magnifies the latter.

The most successful math schools have consistent models and methodology from class to class and grade to grade.  The more teachers that contribute to a program, the more idiosyncrasies inevitably arise.  Fewer instructors, therefore, lead to less inconsistencies and better mathematical results.

Each year, elementary school math teachers are required to teach a segment of a school wide curriculum.  With very few exceptions, their new group of students has been shuffled from multiple classes, and thus learned the previous curriculum section in varying ways.  At the beginning of the next school year, the students are mixed again.  Thus, the curriculum story becomes increasingly diluted with each passing year.

Fewer teachers, of course, does not mean that the subject will be taught or learned well, but with less instructors impacting the program, challenges and misconceptions become more consistent and – in turn - easier to address.  The smaller the staff, the greater the impact of an exemplary teacher. The larger the staff, the more diluted and less significant the latter’s work becomes.

Elementary schools that are best set up for mathematical success consist of two classes per grade level. One Math and one ELA specialist teaches their respective subject to all of the grade’s students.  This model creates a singular, unified curricular message.


For more thoughts on elementary school specialization, see the article below.