Dear SJCS families and Community,
As spring comes to our school, I hope you are enjoying the great strides in learning that children make at this time of year. A rite of this Spring is that your teaching team is beginning to plan next year to fully take advantage of our new Green Lake home. Our move to the Green Lake location this summer will coincide with an anticipated programmatic enhancement to which we have been transitioning over the past two years – the mixed age cohort. After piloting a 2nd and 3rd grade cohort two years ago and expanding it to a 4th/5th cohort (for science, social studies and math) this year. Next year, we’ll expand what we’ve initiated with our two older cohorts to the third cohort of our youngest students adopting this model school-wide for the 2019-20 academic year.
Our chosen model, used by innovative schools nation-wide, is called ‘mixed-age grouping’ or ‘cohorts’. This type of grouping removes the age-old construct of classifying children by grade. We will establish three learning communities: the youngest will include students that are 5,6, and 7 years old. The second 7, 8, and 9 year olds, while the oldest will include 9,10, and 11 year-olds.
Pedagogical research has shown that intellectual, social, and emotional development is not strictly age-based. Among the numerous advantages to cohort-based learning environments are:
- Students are able to have more than one year with the same teachers. This allows those teachers to develop a deeper understanding of a child’s strengths and needs, placing them in a better position to support the child’s learning over time.
- Students have several years to develop, and are able to see themselves as progressive, successful learners.
- Students are better able to learn at their own pace. In mixed-age classrooms, children who need more time to master content can do so; those that are more gifted in certain areas like math, writing or Hebrew, are able to advance at a more customized pace.
- Children develop a sense of family with their classmates. They become a “family of learners” who support and care for each other. In small schools like ours, such clusters afford more opportunity for a larger social structure than can be created with 7-9 students in a traditional grade.
- Older students have the opportunity to serve as mentors and to take leadership roles.
- Students are more likely to cooperate than compete. The spirit of cooperation and caring makes it possible for children to help each other as individuals, not see each other as competitors.
- Older students model more sophisticated approaches to problem solving, and younger students are able to accomplish tasks they could not do without the assistance of older students. This dynamic increases the older child’s level of independence and competence.
- Students are invited to take charge of their learning, by making choices at centers and with project work. This sense of “ownership” and self-direction is the foundation for lifelong learning.
- Returning students, being already familiar to the teachers, minimizes the learning curve for teachers as they get to know each child.
We are excited to implement school-wide adoption of the cohort model and feel confident that it will benefit all our young learners!
Ron Waldman, Head of School