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Second Time's the Charm? Repeat Student-Teacher Matches

Teachers have a tremendous impact on student learning, socioemotional growth, and long-term academic and life outcomes. Does that impact increase when a student has a teacher for a second time?

In a new working paper from the Annenberg Institute, authors John Papay and Matthew A. Kraft from Brown University and Leigh Wedenoja from the Rockefeller Institute of Government found positive results when students are matched with the same teacher, either through an intentional practice called looping or because students or teachers shifted grade levels. 

Using data from Tennessee, the authors found an increase in test scores and a decrease in disciplinary infractions and absences for students in grades 3 through 11 who have a teacher for a second time, either consecutively or in a later grade. Test score increases were largest amongst high-performing students and White girls, while behavior and attendance gains were largest among lower-performing students and boys of color. 

While past research has shown benefits of being paired with the same teacher in elementary and middle grades, this is the first study to show the positive effects at the high school levels.

This study’s findings suggest that schools can increase student performance by strengthening student-teacher relationships through formal actions like intentional looping and better student-teacher assignment policies.

–Nathan Kriha