Ross Valley Charter School > Multi-Age Education


The Multi-Age Classroom

RVC classrooms are taught in grade spans (typically TK or TK/K/1, K/1, 2nd/3rd, 4th/5th). Students stay with the same teacher for two years, building a deep, trusting relationship with their teacher. Children typically have only three teachers during their elementary school experience, minimizing the anxiety that children often feel as they move into a new school year. 

Ross Valley Charter Teacher works with students

Deep Two-Year Relationships

Every child has hidden potential. It’s easy to spot the ones who are already sparkling, but many students are uncut gems. When teachers stay with their students longer, they can see beyond the surface and recognize the brilliance beneath.

Dr Adam Grant, "What Most American Schools Do Wrong." The New York Times, Oct. 22, 2023

RVC gives students the gift of time. At the beginning of the second year with the same teacher, there's no need for a “getting to know you” period; students immediately pick up where they left off academically, with teachers knowing what they need to focus on from the start. This second year is especially valuable in terms of academic progress, and RVC teachers enjoy the opportunity to support children’s growth over two full years.

Staying in the same classroom for two years also reduces the anxiety that sometimes comes along with moving to a new teacher and classroom.


Students also get the opportunity to alternate between being a younger and an older student in their classes. The younger students learn from the older and more experienced students. The older students model behavior and help welcome the younger children, which supports our school culture of students learning from one another and relying upon each other. Teachers encourage students to find answers amongst their peers and children become comfortable with helping each other, regardless of being the younger or older student in the classroom.

Mentorship is valuable for students of all grade levels. Four our youngest learners in Transitional Kindergarten and Kindergarten, having role models and friends in older grades gives them confidence in tackling challenges because they can see other students who have overcome the same obstacles. When our younger students visit upper grade classrooms, they can find older friends to help them feel welcomed. Our older students build social emotional skills as they help younger students and work with them on buddy projects. They also gain self-confidence when they realize how much they have learned since they were in the younger grades.

Ross Valley Charter elementary school buddies proudly display their carved pumpkins
Children of different ages read together, helping each other learn

Natural Growth Over Time

RVC students become adept at thriving in a community with learners at all stages, and with this exposure, they gain respect for individuals learning at their own pace. They develop a greater appreciation for their own progress when they witness others being introduced to skills they themselves have learned previously, and they can envision where their learning will take them as they see what more experienced students are able to achieve.  There tends to be less competition than in a single-grade classroom.

Differentiated Learning

Teachers continually assess and monitor student progress in all academic areas. Because the range of abilities in a multi-age classroom is wide, teachers adapt instruction and expectations to accommodate different learning styles, give extra support when it’s needed, and challenge children to keep them engaged and thriving.

Math is taught as a single grade subject in second through fifth grade.  This allows teachers to focus on grade level standards, while differentiating for various abilities.  It also gives students a time during most days where they are with the students from just their grade level, so children in different classes get to know each other well.

Upon graduation, RVC students are academically prepared for middle school, have experience collaborating and taking initiative, and have a positive attitude toward learning.

Students use paper cups to develop math skills

"My favorite part of multi-age is developing a deep and meaningful relationship with my students and their families. The children experience significant academic and social/emotional growth, particularly in the second year, because they feel so safe and comfortable."

-  Emily Belo, 2/3 Classroom Teacher