There's a new classroom format in three Sea to Sky schools. The phrase used to describe these class settings is "multi-age groupings" and they feature students from three different grades.
Audrey-Lynn Spencer-Fraser's son, Bradley, is in one of the classes and he is thriving in the environment.
"Bradley has struggled with many subjects, so being in the split really concerned me because I was thinking if he is struggling in a full Grade 3 class how the heck was he going to do in a three-grade split?" said Spencer-Fraser.
She spoke with the school principal to share her concerns, but after four months in the three-way split grade Bradley's grades are solid.
"He came home with As and Bs on his report card, which way exceeded any expectations we had," said Spencer-Fraser. "He has older peers to help and encourage him through challenges."
Bradley's teacher had a Grade 4-5-6 split ("combined" is the word schools use) class last year and according to Spencer-Fraser, her son's teacher is doing a great job.
"His teacher is also amazing," she said. "She sends home progress reports regularly, which helps to keep us informed on how Bradley is doing and what he is needing a little extra help with."
There are three multi-age classroom groupings in two different School District 48 elementary schools this school year. Spring Creek Community School in Whistler and Brackendale Elementary in Squamish also have multi-age classes. Brackendale has two classes filled with students in Grades 4 through 5 in two separate classes, while Spring Creek has students from those same three grades in one classroom.
The school district's Superintendent of Schools, Lisa McCullough, sees the use of multi-age groupings as a move away from the current industrial model based on a factory-style education assembly line.
"Kids are plunked into a category — we call them grades — and they're kind of filled with content and we move them along to the next grade and we fill them with more content and we move them along and so on," said McCullough of the traditional education practices between Kindergarten and Grade 12.
"It's been working for many, many years," she added. "The idea of (filling kids with) content is just not the emphasis any more. Information and content is everywhere.
The new Pathways to Learning philosophy adopted recently by the school district emphasizes the use of information and puts less focus on memorization of facts.
"It's pretty clear in the research that in terms of psycho-social development multi-age groupings are far superior," said McCullough.