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Volume 25, Number 6
November/December 2009

“Platooning” Instruction

Districts weigh pros and cons of departmentalizing elementary schools


Chief Academic Officer Jeffrey Hernandez talks to teachers in Palm Beach County, one of several districts 'platooning' instruction in elementary school to improve content learning.

AEP 2010 Award - News StoryTo platoon or not to platoon? That’s the question facing Irving Hamer, Deputy Superintendent of Academic Operations, Technology and Innovation for the Memphis City Schools. This year for the first time, the state’s achievement test, known as TCAP ­(Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program), will include algebraic concepts on the fifth-grade test. Hamer says Memphis “is bracing for a very heavy downturn in student performance on the exams.”

Hamer’s office has taken a close look at the district’s 351 fifth-grade teachers and found that not one majored in math. “So what that means to the teaching of algebra at grade five is [that] it will most certainly be done by people who don’t have extensive math preparation,” he says. That doesn’t mean they won’t be able to teach what’s required, he says, but “the thinking on the part of this administration is that maybe one way to get higher-order math in the fifth grade would be to departmentalize the fifth grade and to make sure the math is being taught by the most able math teachers in a fifth-grade configuration.”

This is an excerpt from the Harvard Education Letter. Subscribers can click here to continue reading this article.


For Further Information

For Further Information

ASCD's Whole Child Intitiative:

National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. "Mathematics Specialists and Mathematics Coaches: What Does the Research Say? (PDF)

National Mathematics Advisory Panel. Foundations for Success: The Final Report of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, 2008. Available online in PDF at:

D. Andrews. "Departmentalization in the 5th Grade Classroom: Re-thinking the Elementary School Model." (PDF)