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Multi-Age and Multi-Grade School

Elementary School Expert Advice from Barbara Potts

Q: I would like to know the difference between multi-grade and multi-age schools. What are the benefits of these settings? Do children fall behind with these approaches?

A: In multi-grade schools, the children have been identified by the grade to which they are assigned but two or more grade levels may be taught together. The curriculum for each grade level is covered for the children in the group.

In multi-age schools, children are grouped across ages without consideration for the grade to which they might belong. For example, a child who is six years old but who is a very good writer may be included in a group with an eight-year-old who is a typical writer for his age. Some multi-age schools group children by interest as well as by ability level.

The benefits of both settings include allowing children to move along at their own pace. The drawback is usually seen when a child who has been taught in such a setting moves to a traditional school; she may be ahead of traditional school classmates in some areas but behind in others.

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Barbara Potts has worked as an elementary school counselor for many years. She has a BA in psychology from Wake Forest University, and an M.Ed. in Guidance and Counseling from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

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