Platooning Ballooning at the Elementary Level

Platooning, or departmentalizing instruction according to content area, is on the rise in elementary schools, according to last week’s most popular SmartBrief story. High-stakes tests that target subject areas and grade levels are cited as the big motivator in this pedagogical shift.

Critics of platooning say young students benefit from the continuity and stability of one teacher year-round, and that one teacher can more easily make connections among multiple content areas. Advocates say its a cost-neutral way to focus teacher training to meet and exceed heightened content standards. Evidence that platooning is better or worse for learning is unclear, because definitions of content specialists vary from school to school.

Is the one-teacher-per-classroom model inadequate for elementary students? Does platooning in the early grades have a silo effect on learning? Or do young students benefit from being assigned subject-specific teachers?

Laura Varlas is an ASCD project manager in publishing, and a graduate student in the secondary education: English/language arts program at George Washington University.