Dallas ISD combining grade levels at some elementary schools

One month into the school year, Dallas ISD parents just learned that the district is combining grade levels in certain elementary school classes.

It puts first graders with kindergartners, fourth graders with third graders, and so on. FOX 4 looked into this issue after getting a tip from a concerned teacher.

The district says it has combined grade levels for some classes several years now as a way to deal with declining enrollment.

Rena Honea, president of the Alliance ATF Teacher's Association, says there can be benefits to having younger students with older students.

“It comes with different tactics. A new way of thinking,” she said. “If a kindergartner is struggling, a first grader might recognize that and help.”

But Honea admits the situation also creates challenges.

“My concern would be the years of service the teacher has in teaching that multi-level grade,” she said.

Lisa Curry, a DISD regional director, says many teachers did receive training to prepare for the possibility of combined grade classes.

“When enrollment is low, only 5-7 students we combine them to make sure we are responsible fiscally with our taxpayer dollars,” she said. “In many campuses, the professional development they received at the beginning of the year did address the possibility there could be a mixed age class or combined class and here are some strategies and tips to make sure you are successful.” 

Curry says combined classes allow younger students to learn from older students while older students can help coach younger students.  But the setup does require good multi-tasking skills from a teacher.

“That's where small group instruction comes in,” she said. “If you are working with 9 kindergartners, you're working with them. You transition over with the first graders and what they need.”

The district was unable to say how many of the district's classes have now have combined grades.