TOPSAIL, NC (WWAY) -- One Pender County parent got a surprise at her daughter's classroom open house.
Heather Kissick's second grader was placed in a multi-age combination class.
7-year-old Charley Kissick is one of eight students chosen to join 13 first graders in a mixed-level classroom.
This was especially surprising to Charley's mom because she had never heard of this kind of multi-level integration
"I was a little nervous about it," Kissick said.
Charley's mom was told Pender County has a shortage of teachers and putting the two grades together would help with that.
South Topsail Elementary principal AnnaMaria Romero-Lehrer says they have had combination classrooms all six years she's been with the school.
Multi-age classes are not a new concept at all; in fact, multiple studies on the effects of mixed-age classrooms were conducted in the late '80s and '90s.
"My main concern was making sure her education was not hindered at all and she was where she needed to be," Kissick said.
Research supporting mixed-age classrooms indicates academic achievement is the same as or better than that of children in same-grade classrooms.
The Association for Childhood Education International lists several benefits of multi-age classrooms including:
cooperation rather than competition--a spirit of caring makes it possible for children to help each other, rather than see their classmates as competitors.
"having the older kids in there would be great role models for the first graders," Kissick said. "I think it's good she was chosen. It makes me feel really good about my daughter and how well she does there."