Grades PK through five in Fuqua's Lower School are organized into multi-age classes, each consisting of two grade levels per classroom. Students remain with the same teacher for two years, increasing continuity of learning. The instructional program is based on the concept of continuous-progress. Students advance at their own pace. There are no standard grade level caps on what a child can learn. Students who are able to learn concepts beyond the basic curriculum are taught at an advanced level. Using a variety of assessment methods, instructional levels are determined, and progress is continually monitored. The multi-age environment helps facilitate this approach. For example, an advanced second grade student may be grouped for reading with third grade students in his/her multi-age classroom. The result is a natural flow of learning for all children without holding advanced students back, while also not separating one group from another.
Multi-aging not only enhances academic learning but also promotes social and emotional development. Because the environment of a multi-age classroom tends to reflect a more cohesive “family” atmosphere than single-grade classrooms, younger students have an increased sense of security and belonging. They also aspire to emulate their older peers. Older students benefit by serving as models for younger students. This encourages them to develop self-confidence, responsibility, and leadership skills. Older students begin the year self-assured , knowing what to expect, because they return to a familiar environment. Spending two years with the same teacher minimizes the “get acquainted” time at the beginning of the year, and enables teachers to use the knowledge they have gained about a child during the first year.
The multi-age classrooms have a comprehensive curriculum that integrates the Virginia SOLs. Emphasis is placed on hands-on-learning, real life problem solving, and higher level thinking strategies.