For an optimal learning experience, is it better for school-age twins to remain together in the same classroom, or go their separate ways? Who should make this decision, schools or parents? The Massachusetts state Senate is currently considering a bill that will give parents full authority over their twins’ classroom placements, amid protests from the “many school officials and behavior specialists [who] ardently stand by the practice of separating twins”, according to an article in yesterday’s Boston Globe.
Opponents of the bill believe that separation “is the best way to foster a stronger sense of self and independence in the children and minimize the likelihood that they will cover for one another’s academic weaknesses”:
“Twins are never 50-50 in their skills and abilities,” said Stuart Goldman, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School who also works at Children’s Hospital Boston. “You want them to develop skills and competencies on their own.”
…”Many people may think this might be micro-parenting . . . but this idea that twins won’t be individuals if they stay in the same classroom is so misguided and not based on research,” said Nancy L. Segal, a psychology professor and director of the Twins Studies Center at California State University, Fullerton.
Other parents would prefer to keep their twins together, however, or at least have the power to decide when their children are ready to move into separate classrooms. The Globe article references “a rising number” of parents who complain that “forcing twins to separate in the classroom can cause anxiety and depression, with crying, bed-wetting, withdrawal from classmates, and disengagement from classwork.”
Is this really a legislative issue, though? Why not make decisions regarding classroom placement on an individual, case-by-case basis, instead of falling back on a blanket piece of legislation? District officials in Carlisle, MA operate under a policy that seems both sensible and effective to me: discuss the benefits and drawbacks of separating a set of twins with their parents, taking the individual needs, idiosyncrasies, and desires of the children into account.
At the only elementary school in Carlisle, the principal, teachers, and a psychologist will advocate for separation after meeting with parents on kindergarten placements, but Superintendent Marie Doyle said the district ultimately lets parents choose.
“The challenge with twins is that you have a dominant and submissive twin,” Doyle said. “If you keep them together in same classroom, the dominant twin will continue to speak for the other sibling and make decisions.”
Certainly a valid point, but should school officials still be allowed to overrule parents who want their twins to remain together, as has been the practice in many Massachusetts school districts for decades? I’m not so sure.