In 2008 the Kentucky Department of Education surveyed all the elementary school principals in Kentucky concerning the degree of implementation of the multi-age environment in their schools. This offered me an opportunity to compare the degree to which Kentucky’s elementary schools adhere to the concept of multi-age grouping – known as “Ungraded Primary” in Kentucky – to those schools’ combined average math and reading proficiency rates on Kentucky Core Content Tests (KCCT). Those KCCTs are used for No Child Left Behind (NCLB) accountability.
The various levels of compliance with Ungraded Primary in 2008 are categorized as:
“Single Grade” – Students are not multi-age mixed
“Dual Graded (e.g., P3 and P4)” – Some multi-age mixing occurs, but not more than two age groups in a classroom
“Non-Graded Primary P1-P4” – Complete multi-age grouping of all students who would normally be in Kindergarten through third grade
“Non-Graded P2-P4 and graded P-1” – Students entering school (formerly Kindergarten) held separate from multi-age environment of what was formerly considered grades one to three.
I merged the Excel spreadsheet containing the Primary implementation information with another Excel document from the department of education that contains each school’s 2008 proficiency rates from the KCCT. The math and reading proficiency rates for each school were averaged together, and then the spreadsheet was analyzed to see how the degree of Ungraded Primary implementation corresponded to each school’s performance on the KCCT reading and mathematics assessments.
This graph shows the results.
The next bar, “Average for all Multi-Age Models,” (shaded pink), shows that overall across all the various multi-age groupings, the averaged math and reading proficiency rate was somewhat lower at 70.70%.
Following bars show the combined average math and reading proficiency rates for several different classifications of multi-age environments. Only one of those environments, “Dual Graded (e.g. P3 and P4) Only,” where students are multi-age mixed only with two ages maximum, shows somewhat better performance than the totally non-multi-age “Single Grade Program.” That difference is only 0.57 percentage point, which probably isn’t significantly different.
Based on the 2008 data, none of the various the multi-age environments currently used in Kentucky produce a notable advantage in academic performance over the traditional, graded structure. In fact, most of the implementations result in slightly lower performance. Therefore, the current rather lax enforcement of the requirement to implement multi-age environments in Kentucky is probably wise.
Find more information including the technical “stuff” here.