Seems that the answers vary wildly, if my informal digging is any indication. Many parents find out via mail, anywhere from 2-4 weeks before school starts. (One Parents mom is even provided with the class list.) Another colleague has a friend in California whose school posts the class list on the front door of the building the night before. Wow. But most surprising is the friend on Long Island who doesn't find out. The kids at this private elementary school all gather on the first morning and the teachers come and collect their students. That's hardcore! Makes you wonder if there's a correlation between how much time schools leave for parents to ponder the class placements and how much "feedback" some parents have offered over class placements in past years. In any case, it's a big shift from my childhood in Connecticut, where our final report card of the school year contained the line "Your child will be in __________'s class next year."
Where I live now, in northern New Jersey, we find out a handful of days before school. In my town this year, we'll get the news on Friday after 12pm by checking a web portal, provided we've submitted all the requested info about our kids; school starts next Thursday. My younger daughter's principal sent a letter yesterday outlining this, also mentioning that school will be closed on Friday. I took that to mean "So don't bother calling us if you're not happy with the class your child's in." And I can't blame her! I can't imagine how tricky--actually, how impossible--it is to make class placements that make everyone happy. (Just thinking about it takes me back to the many fully unpleasant hours spent working out my wedding seating chart.)
We all know that teachers' and administrators' decisions aren't arbitrary, but I admit I hadn't considered the many, many factors that go into determining which student goes into which class. A few schools spell them out online, and they include:
- The child's intellectual, social, emotional, and behavioral developmental levels & needs
- The preferred learning style(s) of the student
- The child's physical and social maturity
- The child's interactions with other students
- The age of the child
- The "social dynamics" factors within the class
- Fair distribution of children with exceptionalities
- The best use of resource teachers & teacher assistants
- The male/female balance in each class
- The balance of leaders in each class (Interesting!)
- Student friendships
One particular school district in Wisconsin must get a lot of commentary on its placement system, because the administration has created an extensive FAQ document to address it. The questions range from the general ("Can I request a particular teacher for my child?") to the specific ("I have noticed that a small group of my child's friends have been together in classes for a few years in a row, but my child has been in different classes. Is favoritism going on here? Are other parents making requests, and my child is being placed anywhere because I am not making a request?").
I'm really curious to hear how your town handles class placements--will you share in the comments? And here's to a happy and successful school year for everyone!
Photo: Teacher in class showing students a nest via Shutterstock.