Should Students Grade Levels Be Mixed in One Class?

Updated on April 20, 2011
D.D. asks from Goodyear, AZ
17 answers

There is a charter school in our area that people say to go to. They have k-2nd in one class. I can get over the mixing of classes, and be ok with it. They have a autistic child in there that makes loud noises, he repeats the last word that is said. Similar to "rain man". They stated he is is a physical threat and have a paid assistant in the room.
Here is the question...would you want your kindergartener in that classroom? Very busy, free spirited classroom mixed grades?

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answers from Tucson on

No! I did have my daughter in a mixed grade classroom for Kinder and 1st grade... it was awful. One grade is always being left out and many kids are falling behind. Add in the aggressive child, and this sounds like a nightmare. Run, don't walk, to another option. :o) Good luck!

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answers from Phoenix on

That can actually be more effective than a traditional classroom if it is taught correctly. The teacher has to do individual instruction where each child is learning at their level, sometimes the teacher will do whole group instruction and group students according to their level and sometimes they will be working on their own. The teacher walks around and facilitates and assesses. The younger ones will learn from the older ones. I have never seen Kindergarten-aged students in this kind of environment though. I would inquire about the instruction and try to get details. As far as the autistic child, the assistant will be with that child at all times. Also find out if there is another assistant to help with the other children and how many children in the classroom.

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answers from Seattle on

My *favorite* classrooms are 3-4 grade mixes (montessori style, 1 room classroom style as well). Montessori is usually 1/2/3 and 3/4/5 & 6/7/8 & 9/10/11/12. One room school house, otoh, is ages 5-18. It's an entirely different method of teaching both academically and socially that ***with teachers trained in that mode*** has absolutely phenomenal results both academically and socially.

So the age thing... not a worry at all. Far from, it would be a huge attraction.

The ASD thing, however, would be concerning to me. It wouldn't absolutely nix it, but it could.

I say this as someone with LFA in my family (my cousin), and who is friends with several Aspies & other HFA people, and one of my son's besties is and Aspie.

If he is prone to violence, it is highly unlikely I would enroll my son in the class. If he was non-violent, merely distracting, I would trial run it. My son is ADHD, so he would go one of two ways... completely nonplussed, or gestapo and not pay attention to anything else. .

I don't think there's a right or wrong answer to your question, I DO believe it depends on your own child and how they would cope or not cope given the individual and the situation.

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answers from Chicago on

No, I would not want my kindergartener in that classroom. I am a 3rd grade teacher, and I have a hard enough time with mixed grade level abilities! Mixed grade levels in one class is just way too much. Special education is a very touchy topic, so I won't get into that. However, I do know that special education students are surely being mainstreamed into a regular classroom setting. I just hope that that the autistic student is being carefully monitored and has an assistant with him. It is just again, too much to mix grades, let alone mixed academic abilities. It can cause some confusion to other kids especially grades k-2.

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answers from Jacksonville on

I would not want MY children in that class, but not because of anything other than I know my children well.

My daughter would not thrive in that environment. She thrives off of structure and knowing the rules, and too many different rules for different ages or different grades/schedules going on at once would not fit her personality well. She is also very intelligent and tagged as "gifted" and would want to be in the older more advanced group whether she would be allowed to participate or not. Half the time I swear she learns by osmosis and she would feel "held back" to not be with the more advanced class at all times.

My son, on the other hand, is easily distracted and a daydreamer. It would be too difficult for him to focus on his own work with another aged child doing something different on the other side of the classroom. He's a "grass is always greener" kid --whatever someone else is doing is WAY more interesting than what he is doing right now. He would probably enjoy the class, but wouldn't do as well as he does in a class where everyone is essentially doing the same thing with fewer distractions.

So, no, I would not want MY kids in the class, because it would not be a good fit for them. Would I have issues with the design of the class otherwise? Probably not. It could be a great opportunity for your child to emulate older more mature children and strive to catch up to them, and at the same time, for them to mentor the younger students. My children meet this need through karate. My son became a Black Belt at age 11 and has much older students in his advanced classes and also younger students and he is expected to assist in the lower belt classes on occasion. My daughter started karate last year, after watching her older brother for years, and she always wants to be the top in her class and keep up with the bigger/more advanced students. Hopefully, she will learn through time and practice, how to mentor those of lower rank as she rises through the ranks herself.


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answers from Washington DC on

I am a huge fan of mixing grades, if it is done correctly. I don't know how a traditional public school might handle that. My daughter had a montessori educaiton for age 3-6. And I woudl love to have kept her there for mixed age grade 1-3, but we couldn't afford it. In our experience, it enables kids to practice what they are developmentally ready for and not force them into a traditional one age cirriculum. My daughter excels at reading and could be a couple grade levels ahead now, but is stuck in first grade reading - except where we hav ebeen able to work twith the teacher a little creativly which is a challange. Also, it lets kids become leaders and role models which sets a wonderful sense of community and self-esteem.

However, I really feel this could get fouled up with the wrong teacher. I would want to know how they actually manage theri classrooms and student's needs. I woudl ask what their goals for a mixed age class are. Busy and free spirited isn't necessarily bad. Could be great. I have been in traditional classrooms that verge on complete chaos, so it is really about the teachers and the cirriculum. Ask questions.

As for the autistic child, I don't know how to respond. I see nothing troubling other than the "physcial threat" part of things. I am shocked they even told you that to be honest. It seems like a violation of his privacy and a threat to his social development. I would start by asking a ton of questions. In what way is he a threat and what is the managment plan for protecting my child? At what point, would he be asked to leave the class? How bad is it really?

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answers from Detroit on

Both of my kids are in a Montessori school and they have mixed ages/classes. Pre-Primary and Kindergarteners (3-6 years) are together and Elementary (1st-3rd) are together. The older children take on a bit of a leadership role with the younger students. And the younger children look up to the older ones and work hard succeed at the more advanced activities. My kids are both thriving in their classrooms. I was VERY unsure about it at the beginning, but when it's well organized and structured, it is a GREAT environment.

Mixing in a child with special needs that may cause a "distraction" (for lack of a better term), may make for a whole different learning environment.

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answers from Eugene on

I went K-2 in a classroom that was K-3; the other classroom in the school was 4-6. It was a two-room school in rural Montana. I ended up ahead of all my classmates in the "traditional" school when I moved to town. I loved it; and my brother was in my class and very disruptive--it's not any different than any classroom some children are more disruptive than others. I learned a ton and at my own pace and from my peers and I loved getting to help the younger kids too. Don't knock it till you try it!

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answers from San Antonio on

I personally woudn't at that age. I am sure it can work, but K through 2nd developmental skills are are such different levels in traditional classrooms as it is that I couldn't imagine a classroom with 3 years of differences in one room. As students get older some of the gaps are less and less. I was actually in a mixed 4th and 5th grade classroom for GT students those two years, and it was great because the 5th graders would work actively with the 4th graders developing their skills. I just think there is such a huge change between K and 2nd grade that it could be difficult. (my personal opinion)

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answers from Dallas on

I would call and ask if you can set up a time to observe the class. There are so many factors that can affect whether or not this would be a good situation such as class size, the teacher, classroom structure/routines, your child's personality, etc. If you can observe a couple times and at different times of the day, it would probably help you decide if it would be a good fit for your child.

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answers from Flagstaff on

if your childs safety is an issue, no.
i would find it hard to believe that the teachers would let you child be harmed. my children are in a montessori based charter school and it is 3 grades in one classroom. it's great because the older kids learn to take care and be good role models for the younger ones. the younger ones look up to the older ones. when you think about adults, we usually hang out with people that are several years difference in age without discrimination. why not start learning how to deal with different ages now?



answers from Appleton on

Ever hear of a one room school house? Years ago that was the standard of education. Kindergarten through high school all in the same room learning. The older kids helped the younger kids learn and the kids who were excelled at something had the opportunity to learn advanced lessons.
However I do disagree with a special needs child in the same classroom. My granddaughter is Austistic. Austistic children can be very intelligent but they process information differently and it is almost impossible to control their outbursts. Diet is very important for special needs kids, if their diet is not controlled carefully the outbursts and violent behavior can get out of control quickly.
I would advise you to look into special needs classes for these kids and if none are available get some going.
In this economy combining grades may be a way for school systems to cut costs without cutting services.



answers from Phoenix on

Doesn't sound conducive to learning, so my answer would be "NO." If homeschooling is not an option for you, I'd look for another educational option in your area. From my experience homeschooling my daughter during her kindergarten year, I found that she learned best in a quiet, secure and predictable environment (like when her younger brothers napped). Also, individual attention is important at this age which I don't think would happen often in the classroom you describe. Whatever you choose, make sure your daughter develops a love for learning. Best wishes for a decision for which you will always feel proud.



answers from Minneapolis on

I don't think Kindergarten should be mixed in. My son goes to a Charter School and they have mixed grades but it's K, 1st/2nd, 3rd/4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th. My son is in first grade and I've found no difficulties with sharing with 2nd graders.


answers from Seattle on

The charter schools around here are like that too. I went in and got a chance to watch a day when i was looking into where i wanted my oldest to go for at least kindergarten. Although the teachers and their aids are set up to handle the chaos of a big class and multiple learning degrees and behavior issues I was overwhelmed and decided it would be better to keep him in one class room with kids all his age and grade.

The public schools in our district were required to remove split 3/4 year classes. I was excited to hear this from my mom when they made the choice to do so. They had to because we finally went from an elementary/ junior high setting, to an elementary/ middle school setting. We were about the last district west of the mountains to do this.

So my vote is going to stick to single grade class rooms. It just makes learning a bit easier. Also at charter schools they dont have as many programs set up for autistic kids or kids that need a bit more one on one. I know that is not the debate. In public schools or public academies in our area kids with a learning cap get more one on one attention and usually it is provided at little or no cost at all to the families. that way teacher can focus as not only on the class but know that the kids who need it will have the help that they need.



answers from Phoenix on

My daughter's friend went to a charter school with mixed grades. I'm not opposed to the idea, but she is now in high school, bumped up a few grades and gets bad habits from the much older kids. She wore make-up much earlier than other kids her age beause her friends did, boys, etc. So, something to keep in mind. But, if you have concerns regarding this autistic child, can you make an appointment with the principal to discuss your child's possible enrollment and how they handle potential problems in the classroom, or how they've handled them inth past? That conversation may answer your question.



answers from Boston on

Our town had multi-age classes where 2+3 and 4+5 were in one class and the kids stayed together for 2 years and followed a 2 year curriculum. It seemed to work better for some kids who do not like changing teachers and students every year. It seemed to have the advantage that in the 2nd year not a lot of time was wasted learning classroom routines, and older kids could help younger kids with coats and such. The disadvantage was that if your kid did not like the arrangement and wanted to move into a regular classroom the next year, the child may have had some mixture of what is normally covered in both grades but not everything from one grade, so moving into a normal class was difficult. The school system discontinued this option, but did offer a "looping class" which both my daughters enjoyed. The same group of kids plus teacher enter 2nd grade then move as a group to 3rd grade (or 4th to 5th). The same advantage of already knowing all the kids in class and the teacher and the classroom routines, but a regular 1-year curriculum plan like all the other classes (so moving into and out of that looping class was easy). My kids both loved looping, but it could be bad if you do not like the teacher or do not like certain kids in your class since you are stuck with them for 2 years.
I think K-2 is too large a skill range to put all in one room, unless it is taught in the Montessori method where the classrooms are very small and there are multiple teachers and kids move at their own pace. But I still would not find it a good match for my girls.

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