Multi-age classrooms extended to more schools
May 15, 2015
For the 2015-16 school year, Stillwater School District is planning on cutting several teaching positions in elementary schools. These schools are now faced with the decision on how to sufficiently teach the same amount of students with less staff. The solution seems to be multi-level classrooms instituted in grades two through six.
Multi-level classrooms mean students will be in class with other kids their age and either a grade above or below them, depending on how the grades get divided. Teachers will teach two grade levels in a single classroom of students. Afton-Lakeland currently uses this system and other elementary schools such as Stonebridge, Lily Lake and Marine Elementary are discussing the use of multi-level classrooms as well for the upcoming school year.
“The teachers, students and families have two years to get to know each other, know the routines and expectations and build a strong community,” said Tom Hobert, principal of Afton-Lakeland Elementary
Although multi-level classrooms will be new to many staff members in the elementary schools, administration sees many benefits that will come from students working with other students their age as well as a grade older or younger.
“Students get the benefit of a wide range of abilities. There are leadership opportunities for the older students and high functioning younger students may more easily work at a higher level with the older students,” Hobert said.
The idea of combined classrooms came about as a way to better balance enrollment in elementary schools. In the past, class sizes in schools have varied with some classes running larger or smaller than average. With multi-grade classrooms, all classes will be within what the district considers to be acceptable teaching ranges for next year.
“At Andersen Elementary, we will have a multi-grade learning experience for a group of students in kindergarten and first grade. Some subjects, like math, will continue to be taught in single grade level configurations. During other parts of the day, students will have opportunities to learn in multi-grade environments,” said Hugh Roberts, principal at Anderson Elementary.
Students who have gone to elementary schools with multi-level classrooms say they have benefitted from having two grades in one class and have had positive experiences.
“I went to Afton-Lakeland Elementary and really liked the combined classes. You got to meet new people in the grade above you, and you got to have a teacher for two years which made you more comfortable with them and you were able to adjust to their teaching style,” said junior Jason Heegaard.
Multi-level classrooms will provide balanced class sizes and a learning environment that is beneficial to both students and teachers. Elementary schools across the district look forward to implementing these in the upcoming school year.
“This is an exciting opportunity for us to provide another innovative, differentiated learning environment for our students,” said Roberts.