They’re not because of cutbacks. They’re not because of politics.
Split classes happen due to class caps. In order to keep classes smaller, the kids ‘over the cap’ become part of a split. Sure, it would be lovely to have 15 students in a classroom, but thats not the norm in public schools. Once we have 25 or 26 students in a room, the additional students need a home, and a split is born.
Sometimes, we have the right numbers for a straight 4 and a straight 5, but we have personalities in each room that really need to be separated. With two 4/5 splits, we have two rooms to divide those kids between. Having more physical rooms available for kids in a particular grade is how we balance high needs kids, gifted kids, esl kids, tech dependant kids, and personalities between the rooms. It also gives a range of teachers to choose for each kid, since some teacher personalities suit certain kids better than others.
in a well-run split class, the students can’t all have the same ‘work’ because they have to do grade/level work. With IEPs many kids have individual programs anyway. (In my 7/8 split last year I ran 5 different math programs.) Regardless of ‘split’ or not you have 30 different kids with individual needs.
Split classes really are in the kids’ best interest. I have always asked for the split when given a choice, because they give me the freedom to be creative in how I release responsibility to my kids. They give the higher-grade kids a built in review, and built-in leadership opportunities, and benefit the younger-grade kids by showing context, and where processes will go next. I also appreciate how individual differences in modified programs are less visible in a split, and all kids feel more included.
So before you panic about having a child in a split-class, think about the benefits. And please remember: building a classlist for a split-grade room takes a great deal of work — which helps your child be in the best possible place for them.