We recognize the limitations of the current one-size-fits-all approach to education in which students are ordered to be on the same page on the same day with no responsiveness to different rates of understanding. Developmental psychology tells us that children experience uneven developmental trajectories up until around age 8, with children’s brains reaching developmental readiness for different concepts at highly individual rates. Research also tells us that children learn best when they are interested in the topic being studied, motivated to acquire knowledge and skills for a specific purpose, and confident in their abilities to succeed.
To best meet the needs of students, R-School Lakeland has developed a mixed-age grouping approach which allows children to work at their own level to reach understanding of concepts, with specific time set aside to directly teach new skills or skills with which students are experiencing difficulty. We use a variety of curriculum materials to tailor each child’s learning experiences, including SRA, Harcourt-Brace Trophies, Thinking Maps, JustWrite, Grammar Island, Math-U-See, WriteMath, and Life of Fred.
NCTM Principles and Standards for School Mathematics: We use these standards because they are research-based and developed by experts in conjunction with classroom teachers. These standards utilize a multi-year mastery approach, in recognition of the fact that students come to mathematical understandings at different ages. They encourage a deeper understanding of mathematics while recognizing that students need math instruction and practice grounded in real-life experiences.
ELA Standards: Dr. Bradshaw created these multi-year, research-based standards by drawing from several professional sources, including the work of Dr. Sandra Stotsky and the International Reading Association. These standards provide a framework increasing in complexity yet still flexible in recognition of research findings showing that students demonstrate developmental readiness to read and write at a highly individual and variable pace. These standards enable students to progress through the knowledge and skill levels at their own pace in the mixed-age classroom, while still meeting age/grade level equivalent and appropriate benchmarks for advancement to the next classroom setting.
Assessment: We have a strong commitment to appropriate assessment which guides academic instruction and provides reliable and valid information regarding individual student growth, strengths, and needs. Students and teachers work together to create portfolios documenting progress throughout the year, which contain work samples, reflections on work, and teacher created assessments. Each school year students have the opportunity to take a comprehensive normed standardized assessment to inform the student, parents, and teacher of the child’s current level of functioning and inform instructional goals for the coming year. This assessment has been chosen in consultation with licensed clinical psychologists based on its reliability, validity, and developmental appropriateness regarding informing on student progress.
Social and Independent Functioning Skills: We believe that childhood should be honored as a special time of life and are dedicated to providing age-appropriate experiences in which children develop social and independent functioning skills. Students are guided in working both independently and in groups, and are allotted daily free time in which to develop friendships and pursue self-selected activities. During these times, students learn how to appropriately navigate social interactions and self-regulate their behavior in a safe and supportive environment. Class meetings are held regularly to discuss classroom happenings and brainstorm solutions to challenges.