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Multiage program at College Park Elementary is "something magical"

Published Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Teachers and administrators at College Park Elementary have found a flexible approach to meet the needs of the school’s diverse group of learners.

This year the school has expanded upon its multiage program, which groups students of two grade levels in the same class. Multiage learning is not a new approach, but when combined with other personalized learning concepts the way it is at College Park Elementary, it’s an innovative educational experience worthy of the spotlight.

During the June 11, 2019 Berkeley County Board of Education meeting, representatives of CPE were recognized for their commitment to student success with the multiage program and encouraged to continue the focus on student engagement and empowerment.

“This is some of the most innovative work I have seen at the school district,” said BCSD board chair Sally Wofford.

Last year, there was one multiage 1st/2nd grade class at CPE. This year, there are two 1st/2nd grade classes and two 3rd/4th grade classes. It’s a student-centered environment encouraging teamwork. Instead of completing a worksheet, students form groups and collaborate. They create projects, and it’s a memorable experience. Teachers at CPE say there is a presence of voice and choice in the classroom.

“We are preparing our students for the next generation,” said CPE principal Amanda Prince. “We want our students to be creative, innovative and self-directed. We want them to understand and know how to learn. We want them to have those interpersonal skills and to persevere.”

Mrs. Prince said by removing grade levels “something magical” has happened in CPE classrooms. Older students became classroom leaders while younger students frequently became a part of more progressed instruction.

“Students of all proficiently levels, they all grew, they all learned. That’s what education is all about,” Mrs. Prince said.

The social emotional side of learning is also being addressed through the multiage program and other initiatives in the school. Through that additional focus, Mrs. Prince said there has been “amazing” progress in classes – so much that parent nights are “standing room only.”

“It’s about community in the classroom and building the community in the classroom,” she said. It’s a very safe environment where we’ve seen kids just thrive.”

English learners make up 25 percent of the student population at CPE. Mrs. Prince said the community focus is what has really been the key to progress with those students and families. Treating the classroom like a community and adding the layer of consistency provided by a two-year multiage program has built confidence.

“It’s been wonderful to watch. Students have been able to come right back in and pick right back up. Our parents really like that.”

Brian Troutman