How I Turned My Biggest Classroom Frustration Into A Quest To Create Equitable Classes

How I Turned My Biggest Classroom Frustration Into A Quest To Create Equitable Classes

I was SO tired of getting classes that were out of balance.

Every year as a third grade teacher, I eagerly looked forward to fall. I loved beginning the new school year with a brand new group of kids, having the opportunity to start fresh and learn and grow along with my students.

I was always hopeful for a good group, /especially/ the years after I had had a particularly challenging class. Within a few weeks of getting to know my new students, I would start to get a feel for their strengths and challenges, their personalities and styles.

Every teacher understands the need for balance in their classroom and as professionals we are equipped to deal with the natural inequities inherent in any group. But I was starting to notice more and more frequently, that something wasn’t quite right with the composition of my new class. Each year it seemed, in one way or another, the balance was just off.

How did this happen?

It was natural for my teammates and I to compare our classes. Inevitably we would discover inequities. Why did my class have so many identified low readers? Why did Liz’s have so many students with challenging behavior? How did Stephanie get most of the kids on IEP plans, and Jacqui all the English language learners? We found ourselves asking year after year, “How did this happen again?” It was baffling.

The process

Typically, at the end of each school year, most teacher teams diligently spend hours, using many different data points and observations, to create balanced groups of students for the following year. Our team had a process in which we would fill out a card for each student, making note of his or her academic and social/emotional strengths and challenges.

Then we would get down on our hands and knees and start sorting them into groups- striving for balanced groups of boys and girls, academic highs and lows, special needs, even taking pains to separate kids who we knew did not work well together.

The process was painfully inefficient. It felt like we were constantly playing a game of Whack-a-Mole! We would move one student into another class to fix one imbalance, but then we would create another imbalance. It was so frustrating, that despite our best efforts, it seemed impossible to get well-balanced classes consistently year after year.

The heart of the problem.

It finally dawned on me it was really no one’s fault that imbalanced classes were created. There was simply too much data to account for. I began to wonder- wouldn’t it be cool to have a software program to create classes instead of all these scraps of paper and the human error that goes along with them?

The idea takes seed

I searched for a software program that addressed the problem, but couldn’t find one. It seemed so obvious that this was needed! I started thinking about how I could create a solution. It slowly grew into an obsession. I found myself spending evenings and weekends consumed by it. I drove my wife crazy!

My passion grows into my mission

Finally, two years ago, I found a partner, quit my teaching job and devoted myself full time to developing the product that I had been searching for. It wasn’t easy. There were many starts and stops, with hours of conversation with teachers, administrators, and district representatives, visits to schools and trade shows and of course, a huge technical learning curve. But finally, after 8 years of research and development, my product launched in March of this year!

What I’ve learned: sometimes a small idea can make a big difference.

Looking back, I can honestly say it’s been an amazing journey. I miss having my own classroom and I absolutely miss the kids. But I’ve learned and grown so much and I’m proud that I have created a product that will have a positive impact on teachers and most importantly students.

Mike Cronley CEO and co-founder of Class Composer.

mcronley@classcomposer.com

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