Grace Christian Academy was founded in 1970 and has been in continuous operation since. GCA uses primarily the Abeka curriculum, the publishing arm of Pensacola Christian College (PCC) in Pensacola, Florida. PCC is the largest producer of Christian textbooks in the world today. Their curriculum is best utilized within a traditional classroom environment and excels in preparing students academically and spiritually. It is our belief that the traditional classroom dynamic is best for the majority of students. With the exception of 1st and 2nd grade classes (due to larger numbers of students), GCA operates within a “Combined Grade” structure. (K4 & K5, 3rd & 4th, 5th & 6th, 7th & 8th, 9th & 10th, 11th & 12th.) Simply put, we group students from two or more consecutive grades into one classroom with one teacher. As our school enrollment grows we will continue to divide our elementary classes into single grades, but until then the combined classes have proven to be successful. There are likely many questions you may have about this arrangement. We will attempt to answer the most common ones here, but please feel free to contact us with any additional questions you may have.
Are combined classrooms superior/inferior to single-grade classes?
There is no evidence to suggest that multi-grade classes when properly administered are better or worse than single-grade classes. At GCA, the success of our students has depended more on the performance of our teachers, the capability of the student and the involvement of the student’s parents than on the number of grades represented within a given classroom.
Will my child get enough individual attention?
The amount of individual attention a student receives is more an issue of the number of students within a classroom than how many grades are represented. Abeka as a curriculum is designed to be used successfully in both single and multi-grade situations. It is designed to allow the teacher maximum flexibility in moving from grade to grade. Because of this, students who are not hindered by severe learning difficulties will receive more than enough individual instruction.
How can teacher effectively teach more than one grade at a time?
Teachers from all backgrounds utilize a variety of approaches in efforts to give their students the best education possible. The following techniques represent some of these approaches:
Teach multiple grades a common subject then give each grade its own age appropriate task.
Break students up into smaller study groups utilizing teachers’ aides. Teach one grade while allowing another grade to finish seatwork from their previous lesson. Bring students together from two consecutive grades for subjects that can be taught in a way that bridges the relatively insignificant age gap (ex. Health, Physical Education, Music, etc.). Abeka structures many of its subjects in such a way as to combine two successive grades automatically. For example, the 9th & 10th grade may study Physical Science in one year together and Biology the next. This is then switched the next academic year to ensure no students take the same subject twice.
How will a Combined Class affect my child?
ACADEMIC ACHEIVEMENT- Several studies have found that students in combined classes do just as well as students in single-grade classes. In fact, some students actually do better in language and reading. Since teachers are usually required to teach the same class for two years, they become more familiar with the student and their families. This results in a stronger sense of continuity. Research done with a Kentucky Public School multi-grade classroom shows that over time, students’ academic achievement and teachers’ preparation time increased.
SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT- Studies show that children in combined classes have more opportunities for emotional and social growth. Students learn how to work on their own and as part of a team, build leadership abilities as they work together and help each other, develop decision-making skills and become more self-motivated and responsible and learn in an environment that reflects the real world with its diversity of ability and perspective.
How can I best help my child succeed at GCA?
Never let the spiritual slip from top priority – pray with them, reinforce Biblical principles in their lives.
Be involved in their school life – ask about their school work, teachers and friends.
Stay connected with the school- Talk to your child’s teacher; ask questions, take full advantage of the resources GCA provides to maintain a good understanding of your child’s progress.
Reinforce their learning at home- be involved with their homework, see to it work is being completed properly and on time.