In one giant classroom, four teachers manage 135 kids – and love it

Schools in Mesa, Arizona, piloted a team teaching model to combat declining enrollment and teacher shortages; now the approach is spreading.

A teacher in training darted among students, tallying how many needed his help with a history unit on Islam. A veteran math teacher hovered near a cluster of desks, coaching some 50 freshmen on a geometry assignment. A science teacher checked students’ homework, while an English teacher spoke loudly into a microphone at the front of the classroom, giving instruction, to keep students on track.

One hundred thirty-five students, four teachers, one giant classroom: This is what ninth grade looks like at Westwood High School, in Mesa, Arizona’s largest school system. There, an innovative teaching model has taken hold and is spreading to other schools in the district and beyond.

The teachers share large groups of students — sometimes 100 or more — and rotate between big group instruction, one-on-one interventions, small study groups or whatever the teachers as a team agree is a priority that day. What looks at times like chaos is in fact part of a carefully orchestrated plan: Each morning, the Westwood teams meet for two hours to hash out a personalized program for every student on their shared roster, dictating the lessons, skills and assignments the team will focus on that day.


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