Welcome to Daniel Bagley!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The deal with mixed grade classes and Montessori

(Original post 8/26/2011; updated with some new information 8/30/2011)

You will have noticed by now that all the classes at Daniel Bagley are mixed grade (K-1, 1-2, 2-3, or 4-5).  I understand that this is common practice in Montessori programs to accommodate a range of ages and skill levels; our school's Contemporary program has mirrored this.  I'm not sure whether it is for consistency, or flexibility with maintaining class sizes, or ensuring equivalent learning opportunities, or best practices, or a combination.

Rationale notwithstanding, I was concerned about the possibility of my two kids, who are a year apart (one starting K, one starting 1st), being assigned to the same classroom.  That would not be a good situation for anyone.  However, I have been assured that every attempt is made to place siblings in separate classrooms.

One mixed grade question I was asked but forgot to answer earlier:
Q -Will my child have the same teacher two years in a row, or will the teacher change every year?
A -The intention of the mixed grade system is for continuity over multiple years, so generally the student will stay with the same teacher (and classmates in their cohort) for both years.  However, parents can request changes.  Also, there are sometimes  other issues that affect the class composition from year-to-year, such as a big influx of new kindergarteners.   For example, last year (but not happening in 2011/2012) there was a K-only 'overflow' class in the contemporary program, and this year, those students are being divided into two K-1 classes and a 1-2 class, so only a third will stay with their teachers and buddies from last year.

So, what is the Montessori program all about, and how did it get started?  Well, from a school doc I found online:
"At Daniel Bagley, the school's enrollment was in a "death spiral," as School Board Director Sherry Carr describes the situation in 1999. The school was seriously under-enrolled and threatened with closure, and the parents decided to create a Montessori program, which had been credited with revitalizing Graham Hill Elementary, which adopted a Montessori program in the early 1990s. "If you build it, they will come" was the parents' feeling about Montessori, according to Director Carr, formally a Daniel Bagley parent and now a Seattle School Board director. "It became to clear to all of us the value of Montessori. It served a need not being served in public school system," she says. 
Carr recalls that interest was high in the Montessori program (which was paired with traditional classes) from the get-go, but the first three years saw slow enrollment -- it took time to build up because there was community skepticism to overcome about the school itself, not the new Montessori program.  Now there is a long waiting list."
Introducing Montessori allowed Daniel Bagley to stay open (thankfully - now our area enrollment is crazy high).  But what is Montessori all about?  It's a different approach to education which has more of a child-directed focus than the traditional model. Bagley's official blurb: http://www.danielbagley.com/montessori.htm.  You should ask Bagley Montessori parents for their experiences to get the real scoop.

Generally, Daniel Bagley operates pretty seamlessly, so there is no apparent separation of kids based on the programs they are in.  It's one big school community working together to provide the best education possible.

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