NEWINGTON – St. Mary School will open a new school year on Aug. 27 with newly painted and redecorated classrooms, new supplies, new technology and, most important, a new school model.
In a different approach to creating a superior learning setting while aiming to provide the best education for students, the school is adopting multi-age learning communities. The goal of the multiage model is to ensure that each student receives an optimal educational experience while being enriched and challenged according to his or her abilities.
“Multi-age learning is not a new concept. However, it is a widely misunderstood concept,” said Marge McDonald, principal. It does not mean merging two classes. Rather, she explained, in multi-age classrooms or levels, students of different abilities and ages are grouped and taught together. The teacher differentiates and adapts so that each child works to the optimum level of his or her ability.
Research shows that such a model provides “countless opportunities for children across grade levels to learn from each other and take on leadership roles in the classroom,” according to the school’s website. Another benefit, it says, is that students remain with the same teacher for more than one year.
With the new model, the number of students in a multi-age class will remain at no more than 18-20, retaining the manageable classes that teachers prefer.
At St. Mary, the prekindergarten and kindergarten classes will remain self-contained. The remainder of the grades will be grouped as primary (grades one and two), upper primary (grades three and four), intermediate (grades five and six) and junior high (grades seven and eight).
After exploring new models for learning, the administration and teachers at the school decided that the multi-age concept was a perfect fit for their desire to create an optimal learning environment for all students, Mrs. McDonald said.
Joan Tortora, the school’s director of admissions and advancement, said the teachers “have welcomed the extra efforts that will be needed this summer to create an entirely new curriculum” that still meets the standards of the Archdiocese of Hartford’s Office of Catholic Schools without being limited by other factors.
“There are no limits on learning at our school,” said Ms. Tortora, who added that parents also have embraced the change.
The school recently received a grant of $7,000 to purchase individual student learning systems and is exploring the advantages of the different forms of tablets available.
The school plans a family social at 6 p.m. Aug. 26.