Types of Students

Every classroom in every school has three types of students:

Type 1 – The Conscientious Student

A Type 1 student can be counted on to act with integrity the vast majority of the time. They are the ones who stay in their seats and keep working quietly if the teacher has to step out of the room. When their teacher is teaching, their eyes are either on the teacher, or on the material that is being taught. Either way, they are actively listening and participating in the lesson.

When given an assignment, they get busy immediately. They will sit at their desk or in their assigned spot and work. They raise their hand if they have trouble. They never shout out if they have a question. It is very rare that a Type 1 student does not get their work done, as these students are self-motivated learners.

A Type 1 student, in the rare instance that they don’t follow procedures, will accept consequences without attitude and are always honest with the teacher. Type 1 students are often the most academically successful students. Should these students ever need a call home, the parents are supportive, and the problem stops.

Type 2 – The Followers

A Type 2 student is the most complex, and is often the most common type of student. A Type 2 student is a “follower” and is heavily influenced by the students around them. If a Type 2 is around a group of 1s, the 2 will behave like a 1. Often however, if the Type 2 is around a number Type 3 (see below), then they will behave like the 3. Academically, Type 2 students follow a typical student talent distribution curve. Most Type 2 students will get their homework and classwork completed.

However, if a Type 2 is working with a Type 3, the assignment tends not to get completed. A Type 2 is generally more willing to accept the consequences of their choices, but some 2s will deny that they did anything or give attitude. A phone call home will generally receive a positive response from a parent. However, the behavior is less likely to be resolved. It may stop for a few days, but it will eventually come back.

Type 3 – The Difficult Students

A Type 3 student rarely makes good choices in the classroom and do not make good decisions when left alone. They rarely do their homework and getting them to complete classwork is very difficult, requiring constant teacher attention. These students rarely take responsibility for their actions and blame others for their choices. They often become belligerent, attitudinal, or nonchalant when corrected.

Many bullies are Type 3 students and engage in conflict with their peers and their teachers. Other common behaviors include spreading rumors and instigating fights. Oftentimes Type 3 students have challenging home environments and parents tend not to be responsive or respond poorly when contacted. Parent-teacher conferences are frequently poorly attended.

For Type 3 students, their home lives may be uncertain and painful. Abuse, homelessness, neglect, and a general lack of support engender poor behavior. Issues reported by our teachers that tend to impact test scores include:

  1. A pronounced “I don’t care” attitude
  2. A lack of respect for others, particularly teachers
  3. A lack of response to classroom management techniques
  4. An absence of parental involvement with educational growth
  5. A lack of understanding of the value of an education
  6. A lack of parental response to student issues

As teachers we try to reach each and every child. We eat with them, talk one-on-one with them, work with them and let them know that we genuinely care about them. We see these kids for who they are and try to understand the issues they deal with day in and day out. We know which students have parents going through divorce, who has a parent in jail or on welfare, and who has been beaten or abused. Children spend only 8% of their time under the direct influence of their teachers, but with so many problem students, it’s impossible for us to deal with all of the difficult and complicated issues our students experience.

Students By Type

After defining these student types, we asked our teachers to estimate the number of students who fell into each category in their class, then again after we observed their classes. After this observation session, the teachers revised their percentages and increased the number of students in Type 1 and decreased the number of students in Types 2 and 3. Here is the breakdown for each of the four teachers and their classes:

Table 11. The Teachers Estimate the Makeup of thir Classes By Student Type

Class Size25242424
No. Type 3 Students4756

In this graded D school, there are 4-7 Type 3 students in each class of 24-25 students. With Type 2 students heavily influenced by their Type 3 peers, this means that at times, a given classroom is composed of a majority of Type 3 learners. This kind of classroom makeup is very difficult to manage, leading to classroom chaos, exhausted teachers, and a reduction in classroom instruction time. In the author’s opinion, it’s tremendously unfair to all of the students when all are deprived of the opportunity to learn and excel.

Picture yourself as a teacher in this school. You entered the profession to make a difference, full of passion and energy, but you spend more time navigating classroom management issues than teaching. Is this a place you want to be every day? Or perhaps you’re just not cut out to be a teacher. With this frame of mind, high rates of teacher turnover become significantly less surprising.

Was 2102/2013 An Unusual Year?

The 2012-13 school year was the year that determined our school’s failing grade. We compared the student type breakdown from that year and the following year to determine whether there was an outsize proportion of Type 3 students during the “failing” year:

Table 12. The School Year 2012/2013 Was Not Unusual

Student TypeSchool Year
School Year

The two years’ breakdown of students determines that 2012-13 and 2013-14 are almost identical, so the school year data used in this paper can be assumed to be fairly typical.