Smaller K-3 Class Sizes May Mean More Split Classes

Smaller K-3 Class Sizes May Mean More Split-Grade-Level Classes
Posted on 05/02/2016

Class sizes will be smaller for students in kindergarten through third grade beginning this fall, thanks to funding from the 2016 Legislature. The funding comes with strict class-size requirements for the primary grades. Because these requirements must be followed in order to receive the funding, this could impact how classes are organized.

Previously, schools were allowed to assign teachers as needed across grades K-5. Under the new funding model, instructional staff will be allocated across grades K-3 at specific ratios. These ratios mean small class sizes in grades K-3, but may also mean more split-grade-level classrooms. A split-grade-level classroom consists of two grade levels; for example, 10 second-graders and 10 third-graders in a single classroom of 20 total students.
 
Split-grade-level classrooms already exist in Seattle and other districts, but we anticipate more of them this fall. Last year, Seattle Public Schools staffed to have no more than two split-grade-level classrooms per school.

This new funding means that this fall, schools may have three or four split classrooms, depending upon the enrollment at each school. Lower class-size funding can be used creatively.  For example, a certificated teacher could be hired as a learning specialist and work with classroom teachers in the K-3 grades to help with student academic needs. Principals are working on how best to use the new funding according to state requirements.
 
FAQ
What’s the difference between a split-grade-level classroom and a multi-age classroom?

Multi-age classes are created to differentiate based on achievement levels in areas such as reading and math. Split classrooms are created due to an uneven or insufficient number of students in two separate grade levels, which are combined into one classroom.
 
Why might there be more split-grade-level classrooms in 2016-17?
Because the state funding requires smaller class sizes, many schools may not have sufficient enrollments to make up full classes at each grade level. For every student the district is over the ratios, the district loses money.  Adherence to the strict state class-size ratios may create more split-grade-level classes.
 
Are split-grade-level classrooms a challenge for students and teachers?
Split-grade-level classrooms in Seattle and other districts are not unusual; schools typically have one or more split-grade-level classrooms in a school. Split-grade-level classrooms do require teachers to use their skills, training and materials to teach two grades in the same room.  Learning specialists funded through this initiative may provide additional support. 
 
Will teachers receive training to manage split-grade-level classrooms?
Yes, professional development is planned to support educators who will be teaching split-grade-level classrooms.  Teachers in the district already experienced in teaching in a split classroom will be utilized for their expertise.
 
How do schools decide which classes will be split-grade-level classes?
During the spring budget process, principals were given instructions on how to configure classrooms to meet the required state-determined K-3 class-size targets. Their decisions will depend in part on enrollment numbers through early fall. 

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