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Selecting class for kids not random

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Parents: Schools are getting ready to decide what classroom your child will be in next school year.

The principals making those decisions will listen to your concerns about how easy or difficult it is for your children to focus in school or how they may need some extra help understanding math. But they won’t let you decide which teacher your child will get.

Teachers and principals work for months to decide which students are assigned to which classroom. Schools have to consider factors such as students’ abilities or how much assistance they may or may not need, and which children don’t get along or get along too well.

Teachers and principals know parents want a say in where their students end up. And knowing that students have a better chance at succeeding if they’re in a class with a teacher who uses a very structured schedule is helpful.

But school districts don’t want parents selecting their child’s teacher because officials don’t want to give the impression that some teachers are better than others. Principals also need to be sure that classrooms are balanced with students who have different abilities, administrators said.

Clark-Pleasant director of curriculum and instruction Cameron Rains said, “It’s not which teacher do you want. It’s what type of skills or what type of demeanor do you think would benefit (your) kid.”

In the next few weeks, teachers at Franklin will start creating potential classroom lists for next school year, sorting students based on grades, ISTEP scores and other tests. They want to be sure there’s a balance of students in each class, including some who can work on advanced or high-ability lessons while others work at a more traditional pace. Needham Elementary School Principal Ken Pettet said that gives teachers more time to work with students who need extra help understanding a lesson or assignment.

At Clark-Pleasant, principals usually start creating early drafts of classroom lists, which then go to teachers for feedback. Teachers can provide more specific information on students’ abilities. They also can let principals know which students they’ve seen work well together and which ones are more likely to talk or get distracted if they’re in the same classroom, Rains said.

Input from parents helps principals know what kind of classroom a student has the best chance at thriving in.

Sarah Kegerreis has three children in kindergarten, second and third grades at Needham Elementary School. She’s never tried to request a specific teacher for any of her children, but she has tried to ensure each was in the right classroom.

Kegerreis’ oldest son typically works well on his own, while her second son does a better job if a teacher is regularly pushing him to achieve his best work. Her two boys had the same teacher for second grade, which wasn’t a problem because Kegerreis spoke with school officials and the teacher, letting them know of the boys’ different learning styles.

“Each of my children are different, and they require different modes of motivation,” Kegerreis said.

Parents can let principals know if they think their student would benefit by having a teacher who specializes in helping students in specific subjects, such as math or reading. But both Pettet and Rains emphasized that principals and other school officials are the ones who will make the final decision on who that teacher will be.

“We definitely want (parents’) input, and we bring that in,” Pettet said.

Regardless of what class a student is in, they also will get the chance to work with other teachers in their grade throughout the school year.

Elementary schools have made time in their schedules so that students can get extra help with lessons they don’t understand, or so they can work ahead if they’re caught up. Rains said students typically spend that time working individually or in small groups with other teachers from their grade.

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