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Dobbs Ferry Resident Studies the 'Forgotten' Fourth and Fifth Grades for Dissertation at Teachers College, Columbia University

Fourth and fifth are often the "forgotten" grades in terms of curriculum specific to their needs, says a Dobbs Ferry, New York, resident who studied programs for those students for her doctoral dissertation at Teachers College, Columbia University.

Fourth and fifth are often the "forgotten" grades in terms of curriculum specific to their needs, says a Dobbs Ferry, New York, resident who studied programs for those students for her doctoral dissertation at Teachers College, Columbia University.

"School districts are being faced with demographics that force building changes for these grade levels," says Valerie Bang-Jensen. "Regularly, we read about administrators who decide, for financial and spatial reasons, to move fifth and even fourth grades into middle school buildings. My main interest is in preserving the integrity of the upper elementary grades, no matter where they are housed."

In order to maintain that integrity, Bang-Jensen said, educators need to analyze the relationship between the cognitive and social development of upper elementary students and the ways in which the curriculum for those grades is structured.

For her dissertation, Bang-Jensen studied six teachers' efforts to design exemplary classroom practices that are "developmentally appropropriate" for the fourth and fifth grades. The teachers included one in an urban system, two in rural areas and three in suburban school systems.

In her analysis, Bang-Jensen found that all six teachers provided for a wide variety of group, first-hand and hands-on approaches to all subject areas, support and challenge for individual students, a concern for assessment done in a variety of ways, and an awareness of curriculum standards and guidelines in all subjects.

The problem with some upper elementary classes, Bang-Jensen said, is that they begin to resemble departmentalized middle and high school classes too soon. In one school Bang-Jensen studied, for example, the administrators decided to departmentalize the fifth grade and teachers at the school thought that the fifth graders simply weren't ready for that kind of change and said that, in their newly departmentalized system, the students' day and knowledge were often too fragmented.

Bang-Jensen has taught at every elementary school level, from kindergarten through the sixth grade. She has taught in the Ithaca, New York, city schools, and at Riverdale County School in Riverdale, New York.

A graduate of Smith College, Bang-Jensen was the first Teachers College student to receive the A. Harry Passow Fellowship, named for the noted professor in the Teachers College Department of Curriculum and Teaching.

Teachers College, a graduate school devoted to education across the lifespan and both in and out of the classroom, is an affiliate of Columbia University but retains its legal and financial independence. Some 4,500 students are currently studying for master's and doctoral degrees at the College. In the 1996 survey conducted by the editors of U.S. News & World Report, Teachers College was ranked as the number-one graduate school of education in America.

Published Tuesday, Sep. 18, 2001

Dobbs Ferry Resident Studies the 'Forgotten' Fourth and Fifth Grades for Dissertation at Teachers College, Columbia University

Fourth and fifth are often the "forgotten" grades in terms of curriculum specific to their needs, says a Dobbs Ferry, New York, resident who studied programs for those students for her doctoral dissertation at Teachers College, Columbia University.

"School districts are being faced with demographics that force building changes for these grade levels," says Valerie Bang-Jensen. "Regularly, we read about administrators who decide, for financial and spatial reasons, to move fifth and even fourth grades into middle school buildings. My main interest is in preserving the integrity of the upper elementary grades, no matter where they are housed."

In order to maintain that integrity, Bang-Jensen said, educators need to analyze the relationship between the cognitive and social development of upper elementary students and the ways in which the curriculum for those grades is structured.

For her dissertation, Bang-Jensen studied six teachers' efforts to design exemplary classroom practices that are "developmentally appropropriate" for the fourth and fifth grades. The teachers included one in an urban system, two in rural areas and three in suburban school systems.

In her analysis, Bang-Jensen found that all six teachers provided for a wide variety of group, first-hand and hands-on approaches to all subject areas, support and challenge for individual students, a concern for assessment done in a variety of ways, and an awareness of curriculum standards and guidelines in all subjects.

The problem with some upper elementary classes, Bang-Jensen said, is that they begin to resemble departmentalized middle and high school classes too soon. In one school Bang-Jensen studied, for example, the administrators decided to departmentalize the fifth grade and teachers at the school thought that the fifth graders simply weren't ready for that kind of change and said that, in their newly departmentalized system, the students' day and knowledge were often too fragmented.

Bang-Jensen has taught at every elementary school level, from kindergarten through the sixth grade. She has taught in the Ithaca, New York, city schools, and at Riverdale County School in Riverdale, New York.

A graduate of Smith College, Bang-Jensen was the first Teachers College student to receive the A. Harry Passow Fellowship, named for the noted professor in the Teachers College Department of Curriculum and Teaching.

Teachers College, a graduate school devoted to education across the lifespan and both in and out of the classroom, is an affiliate of Columbia University but retains its legal and financial independence. Some 4,500 students are currently studying for master's and doctoral degrees at the College. In the 1996 survey conducted by the editors of U.S. News & World Report, Teachers College was ranked as the number-one graduate school of education in America.

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