FAQ for the 4/5 Blend
What is the ratio of Fourth Graders to Fifth graders?
At this time the 4th to 5th grade ratio is projected to be 15 to 13 . Best practices from mixed age research places a high importance on maintaining a near 50/50 ratio with mixed age children. This helps to establish a truly heterogeneous grouping of students (academically) similar to the practice we use in single-grade classrooms.
What is the criteria for choosing the 4th and/or 5th graders?
There is no criterion specifically different for choosing students for the blend than there is for choosing students for a single grade classroom. The criteria for all student placement is created for ensuring a basic heterogeneous group of students based on gender, varying achievement levels, behavioral characteristics, leadership, special needs, support services, student combinations, ethnic groups, parent information, staff, and principal input.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of the blend for learning?
There are pros to blended classrooms, just as there are pros to single-grade classrooms. The first and foremost positive aspect is the increased ability children in mixed age classrooms have for learning in varied groups. In any classroom, mixed or straight grades, you have varying levels of understanding. This is true for a single 4th or single 5th grade or a 4/5 blended classroom. The greatest effect on the continuum of student knowledge is not in the difference from the polar ends but in the varied points along the continuum. That is to say that students are more likely to learn from a greater range of experiences as students learn best in a community of learners who can bring their different strengths in different areas to the table.
Having been a principal of a school with 4th/5th grade classrooms I do not believe there are disadvantages, for students in either of the grades as long as the classroom is set up carefully, with an effective teacher and an A/B curriculum cycle is implemented for two years (see next question).
Much of the research states that academic results do not seem to differ with any substantive significance in any academic area. The academic impact tends to be similar in both academic models; students in multi-grade (blended) classes do not appear to learn more or less than their peers in single-grade classes. Without trying to overstate the benefits and effects of a blended class, research and review of literature on the topic states that students in blended classes tend to score as well or higher on attitudes toward school, personal adjustment, and self-concept than students in the single-age classes, although the differences are rather small.
How is curriculum altered?
Curriculum falls into two basic categories. Math and Language Arts (reading/writing) are essentially concept curriculums. Science and Social Studies are essential content curriculums. That is to say, students learn the same concepts in math and reading at all elementary grades (at different and deeper levels): grammar construction, reading comprehension, geometry, numeration, etc. Science and social studies are based on content (life science, earth science, Oregon history, US history, etc.). With that understood, the instruction of reading and writing is not all that different in a 4/5 then it is in a single grade classroom. The same skills and strategies are covered. The teacher uses a variety of groups from needed skill building groups, to like grade, to whole and small groups, working on the abilities of each individual child. WE have not yet decided how we will approach math instruction. There are several models out there that range from teaching the blended classroom together by providing whole group instruction in relation to a concept (i.e. fractions) and then providing small group instruction and grade level practice activities or by providing a walk to math model in which students are grouped after each unit test and then assigned to a cohort with students at similar instructional levels.
We will utilize an A/B curriculum cycle. Fourth grade science and social studies content would be considered cycle A. Fifth grade content would be considered B. As mixed grade classrooms are formed, most often we begin on the B cycle to ensure the oldest kids receive the oldest grade content. The youngest students in the initial cohort will then receive the A cycle content curriculum the following year. Since we cannot predict our program model for next year, ALL 4th and 5th grade students will be on a B cycle (5th grade content for social studies and science for the 2017-18 school year. During the 2018-19 school year, all 4th and 5th grade students will be on an A cycle (4th grade content for social studies and science). Please ask any further questions of me that will help clarify this.
Is the class size smaller than the other 4th or 5th grade classes?
At this point, yes, but not significantly. The mixed age classroom will have approximately 28 students. The 4th grade and 5th grade classrooms will have approximately 31. If any new 4th or 5th grade students are enrolled, no more than one or two will enter the mixed age, capping this classroom at 30 if at all possible.
How does a blended classroom support or hinder TAG students?
TAG is handled no differently in a blended grade classroom then it is in a single grade classroom. The teacher will review the student’s TAG information to understand where s/he has demonstrated his/her gifted skills. In the fall, teachers assess students on many levels in math and reading and continues to do so throughout the year. The teacher then prepares lessons and plans extended learning opportunities, if appropriate, to ensure the students’ rate and level of learning are maximized. Students identified TAG will continued to be clustered in classrooms with other TAG students and high achievers.
How does a blended classroom work to an advantage for a TAG student?
The number one advantage documented time and time again with gifted students (or high level learners) is that they learn extremely well in mixed ability academic settings. Some educators contribute this to the “learner as teacher” phenomena. This is not to mean that high level learners (or 5th grade TAG students in this case) will play a teaching role in a blended classroom. Rather that gifted students more often than not take on leadership roles in classroom setting. This is heightened in a blended classroom. During lessons and group work where students naturally have conversations that explore the concepts at hand, students learn from one another. Moreover, exploring a concept individually, we learn a concept to a certain depth of understanding. When one explores new information while sharing, teaching, and conversing with others about their exploration, the depth of understanding is greatly enhanced. This is seen in every classroom at every level and well into adulthood. Research shows that these effects are greater in blended classrooms.
Will the 5th graders assigned to the blended classroom be prepared for middle school?
Of course. Regardless of the student’s grade level they will be prepared for their next grade. The blended classroom will be structured with much of what has been utilized by the 5h grade teachers to prepare students with the necessary organization & study skills needed for middle school. However, as in any classroom there will be students who excel and those who need additional supports and encouragement to succeed. Mrs. Jeppesen will continue to be an active member of the 5th grade team. In addition the 4th and 5th grade teachers will be a collaborative cohort next year; working together as they implement the new reading adoption and prepare/teach the 5th grade science and social studies concepts.
What can I do to support a blended classroom?
First and foremost, remember that our words and tone of voice have a profound effect on children. Our shared perceptions carry a great deal of weight with our children. Our words and actions convey our assumptions and expectations, which, in turn, influence children’s’ assumptions and expectations about situations. If we approach something with a great deal of worry or apprehension, our children will often sense that from us and then assume a similar frame of mind. If we make positive or negative statements about either grade configuration our children’s words and actions are likely to mirror ours. Regardless of what grade level configuration you believe to be best, we support our students and each other by remaining positive and looking at this as a wonderful opportunity for all students.
Join us for a short introduction to kindergarten. Kindergarten teachers will read a story with students, guide them in an activity, and provide a gluten and dairy free snack (please let our office staff know if there are additional allergies). While students are with teachers, adult family members will complete a survey regarding your child’s interests, school history, family information, etc. This event is a wonderful opportunity for teachers to get to know incoming kindergartners and make some decisions regarding class assignments. We look forward to seeing you! Monday, May 15th 10AM Glencoe Cafeteria.
Dear Glencoe Families,
The week before Spring Break, Glencoe received some good news. We will be one of the next ten schools in the district to adopt the new K-5 language arts curriculum. As part of this cohort we will be receiving on-going professional development, appropriate assessment materials and new curriculum to effectively implement a reading and writing workshop in each classroom. In addition, we will have the minimum of a half-time instructional coach on site (provided by the district) to work closely with us as we strengthen our instructional practices and effectively utilize the curriculum. I am excited for this opportunity; all of which will benefit our students as they learn and grow as readers and writers.
As you know, today is now an instructional day for students, rather than a teacher planning day, to help recuperate some of our lost instructional minutes from January. With the loss of this teacher planning day comes an agreement between PPS and PAT, the teacher’s union, to eliminate completed report cards for students this 3rd quarter. The only exceptions to this is if a student’s academic and/or behavioral achievement has “significantly declined” from his/her 2nd quarter marks or in the case of high schools, are at risk of failing. Our students with IEPs will continue to receive a progress report from the SPED service provider (Mr. Tibbetts, Mrs. Orchard, Mrs. Schneider Barnes or Mr. Lahart). This was unsettling for many of our teachers as they feel strongly about communicating with families about student progress. Please let me know if you have further questions about this district agreement.
Before break I sent an email explaining how reductions to our state and district budgets will impact Glencoe. We did not receive any additional FTE, as I had hoped. So, our reduction of -3.4 FTE (full time equivalent staff) stands and requires changes to our current staffing structure. Our staffing allocation will allow us to simply meet what PPS has described as minimum core requirements next year for a K-5 school with less than 700 students. In order to develop an effective program for next year I worked from the following principles:
Based on these principles and minimum core requirements, here is what you can expect at Glencoe:
This is a challenging situation and it pains me to say that many people on staff are effected in varying ways. These reductions and program designs impact a number of our staff who will be assigned to other schools within our district. Ms. Claudia Ramos-Tetz (our assistant principal), Ms. O’Leary (our .5 guidance counselor), Mrs. Grossman (our .5 music teacher), Mrs. Brown (our .5 art teacher), Ms. Diane Newton-Prior (our full-time Library assistant) will all be unassigned from Glencoe. Mrs. EFB will be unassigned half-time from Glencoe, leaving our library open half of the week. Mrs. Davidson, a current 3rd grade teacher (& former music teacher) will be assuming the full-time music position. Within the next few weeks you can expect to see additional communications about program designs and teaching assignments for next year.
Many of you at the informational staffing meeting for parents and this month’s PTA meeting asked what parents could do to advocate for adequate funding and FTE for Glencoe. The district is holding budget listening sessions starting next week and they want to hear from parents across the district. I believe you can sign-up to speak at the sessions. Feel free to attend one of the upcoming Board listening sessions:
In regards to advocating for the larger picture of educational funding, please connect with one of our PTA board members who can provide you with contacts at the state/legislative levels.
Hello PPS families and staff,
On April 4 I presented my proposed budget for the 2017-18 school year to our School Board. I want to make sure you know what our spending priorities are, and what they will mean for you and your PPS student or students.
This is a budget of difficult choices. We made extra cuts to central administration to prioritize direct services for students, but we still must make some painful cuts to our schools. Although the cuts will affect each school differently, they will be noticeable. This proposed budget is the first step in a long process, and we will be seeking your input and engagement as we manage this difficult fiscal climate.
CORRECTION: 2nd budget listening session is Tuesday, April 25
We want to hear from you about the 2017-18 budget for PPS! The Portland School Board has scheduled three listening sessions to take your comments on how we should allocate our dollars in the coming year.
Dear PPS Families and Staff:
Spring is approaching and it’s that time of year when we begin building budgets and plans for the next school year.
I spent Monday in Salem with a fellow board member, PPS principals and educators and school districts from across Oregon to advocate for additional resources to support K-12 education and our local schools. The state is facing a shortfall of approximately $1.7 billion and the budgets proposed for K-12 from the Governor and Legislature are not adequate to maintain current levels of services.
Dear PPS Families and Staff,
I am pleased to announce that Kristie Lindholm will become a Senior Director in the Office of School Performance on July 1.
6:30 PM - 8:30 PM Third Grade Play
8:00 AM - 2:00 PM Run For The Arts
2:20 PM - 2:45 PM Popcorn Friday
6:00 PM - 8:00 PM Art Show
8:15 AM - 9:30 AM PTA Meeting AM
2:30 PM - 5:00 PM Rehearsals for Variety Show
2:30 PM - 5:00 PM Rehearsals for Variety Show
2:20 PM - 2:45 PM Popcorn Friday