Since I already have a list of weird education words here’s a new one to add. How many of you have heard of “platooning”—which, in reference to education, means moving elementary students, subject-to-subject, teacher-to-teacher, to meet the new Common Core State Standards?
Instead, of one primary teacher, students move around—subject to subject. This idea has actually been around for many years, but it seems that the reformers are getting ready to ramp-it-up according to a recent Education Week article.
One general definition of platooning involves alternating groups and is used in reference to baseball, and that is obviously how platooning is used in the description of student rotation noted above.
But what comes to your mind first when you hear the word platoon-ing?
Drop the ending of platooning and you have the word platoon, which, when Wikipedia defines it, is “a military unit typically composed of two to four sections or squads….”
And also in reference to the British Army “platoons are infantry platoons, while some carry other designations such as tank, mortar, or heavy weapons platoons.”
I mean no offense to those who have honorably served in the military, but our public schools have already taken on a lot of militaristic words (battery and drill come to mind). Do we really need another—especially at the early elementary level? But put aside the word platoon for a minute, and get the movie scenes from “Platoon” out of your noggin.
The recent Ed Week article entitled “‘Platooning on the Rise in Early Grades’” has enough controversy without the name. Should young children move from class-to-class as if they were in middle or high school? Is this not another goofy way to put pressure on young children and make them older than their age?
For starters, platooning got its start under No Child Left Behind, with many thinking it would increase test scores. So there is no developmentally prudent reason to platoon other than creating more emphasis on high-stakes testing. And we haven’t seen any significant proof that it works, although some do tout higher scores.
Common Core Standards enthusiasts will think it a good idea for this reason alone.
This from Ed Week: “Now, as the Common Core State Standards require new kinds of skills from younger children, some schools are expanding the model by asking teachers to drop their traditional roles as generalists and serve instead as experts in one or two content areas. Most commonly, they’re trying it in grades 3-5, but some are doing it with pupils as early as kindergarten.”
As early as kindergarten!
To be honest, I don’t think an outside art teacher or P.E. or music teacher is odd when children are little. Small children need to know there are other teachers in their schools that have special skills.
But their main teacher should be the teacher that they most identify with, because small children are more likely to feel comfortable with one teacher. And one teacher can get to know children well—can understand the difficulties they might face on the home front. It is more nurturing and more developmentally appropriate.
Also, don’t children grow up to be teens fast enough?
I looked hard for the reasoning behind platooning in the Ed Week article and all I found was the weak emphasis that it will make for better test scores. They also mention that Rocketship Education does it—like that is adequate justification.
Rocketship are chain charters that rely heavily on computers and the schools are highly controversial. In Reign of Error Diane Ravitch writes about Rocketship’s business plan and how they “cut costs by putting large numbers of children in front of computers for an hour a day, supervised by low-wage, part-time aides (p.174).” Also, many of the teachers at Rocketship are from Teach for America.
So if you think more about platooning it makes sense for Teach for America, who are not generalists, and who most likely become frustrated after getting a BS in history, and are now called upon to teach math and a bunch of other subjects in an elementary classroom setting. I actually think this is the real reason behind platooning—matching Teach for America subject oriented teachers with students.
But rotating classes just doesn’t make sense for very young children who should be in the midst of play, who are learning to adjust to school and getting to know one another. Platooning is just another asinine method to adapt to the corporate changes in schooling. It will stress young children out and make parents fearful that their children aren’t learning harder material fast enough.
It’s also an awful, but great weird word for my list.
Gewertz, Catherine. “‘Platooning’ on the Rise in Early Grades.” Education Week. Online. February 18, 2014.
Ravitch, Diane. Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2013) , 174.