Crafting Equitable Class Lists in Elementary Schools: The Essential Guide

elementary scholls class
elementary scholls class

Introduction to Class Lists in Elementary Education

In elementary schools, class lists specify the classroom assignments for students, along with their respective teachers. These lists are the output of the student placement process teachers and administrators typically do at the end of each school year. As students advance through the grades, they get reshuffled into new classes for the following academic year. The composition of class lists has a significant impact on student achievement, teacher effectiveness, and the overall classroom culture.

Creating class lists is a complex and time-consuming process. Each student is unique and teachers and administrators need to consider numerous factors for each child when making placement decisions. Our student placement software streamlines this cumbersome process, saving teachers and administrators significant amounts of time. More importantly, we help ensure the formation of equitable classes.

classlist board

Understanding Class Lists and Their Importance

classlist exemple
classlist exemple

At the elementary level, unlike middle or high school, students receive the majority of their instruction from their homeroom classroom teacher. Elementary students are rarely switched from classes once the school year begins. Any inequity made during the class list creation process can impact the teaching and learning in that classroom for the entire school year.

Understanding this, the creation of equitable class lists emerges as one of the most crucial decisions for elementary teachers and administrators. It’s a process that demands careful consideration, collaboration, and attention to detail to ensure each student is placed in a positive classroom environment, which can foster their academic and social growth.

How Class Lists Are Still Built Today

Teachers talking
Teachers talking
Teachers Looking at Sticky Notes
Teachers Looking at Sticky Notes
Papers on the floor
Papers on the floor

It's hard to believe, but the majority of elementary schools across the country still rely on paper cards and sticky notes to compile class lists. To start the process, teachers meticulously handwrite important student information onto these pieces of paper for each student. Picture blue cards for boys and pink cards for girls strewn across desks, or color-coded sticky notes decorating whiteboards. These cards are physically sorted in an effort to achieve equitable class compositions within each grade level. Teachers often use small whiteboards as makeshift tally boards to record important metrics like the total number of students and gender between classes. This manual approach to class creation is both labor-intensive and time-consuming

The key challenge in student placement lies in navigating data overload. With an abundance of information to consider, educators find it daunting to account for all relevant factors while creating class lists. This is the main reason inequitable classes get formed. The reliance on manual methods for class creation means something will be missed - potentially creating an inequitable or challenging class in a grade level. Class Composer gets around the risky reliance on manual class creation with a user-friendly technological solution.

Factors Considered When Class Lists are Being Made

When it comes to crafting class lists, numerous factors can come into play, each holding the potential to impact the dynamics of the classroom in a profound way. If teachers overlook or fail to account for any of these important factors, issues may arise that can persist throughout the entire school year. Consider a scenario where there are four classes in the same grade level. In one class, there is an overrepresentation of students exhibiting challenging behaviors. Meanwhile, in another class, a teacher finds herself with a higher proportion of struggling readers. The overarching objective of this process is to achieve the most balanced combination of students. 

Second Grede image
Second Grede image

Here are some of the most important factors teachers consider when creating elementary class lists:

  • Class Size: Balance the number of total students across the classes in a grade level.
  • Gender Distribution: Ensure an even representation of boys and girls in each class.
  • Range of Academic Abilities: Foster a mix of students with varying levels of academic ability.
  • Behavioral Considerations: Strive for a balanced blend of behavioral traits within each classroom.
  • Work Skills: Balance students who require more time to complete assignments with students who complete work more rapidly.
  • Special Education Needs: Integrate students with special education needs into classrooms while considering appropriate support and accommodations.
  • Parent Volunteers: Spread out kids who have active parents so there are volunteers in each room.
  • Placement Requests
    • Keep with Student: For introverted or shy students, having a close friend in the class with them the following year can make a significant difference.
    • Keep Away from Student: On the other end of the spectrum, for certain students there is a clear benefit to them, and the class as a whole, to be separated for social or behavioral reasons.
    • Keep with Teacher: Certain students may benefit from being placed in a class with a teacher whose personality matches theirs.

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How Class Composer Can Help with Student Placement Decisions

Class Composer offers a streamlined solution for making well-informed student placement decisions.  Key features such as the Student Card, Student Cell, Digital Data Wall, and the Compose Algorithm simplify the process by providing a user-friendly interface for visualizing and manipulating student data. This enables educators to account for factors like academic level, behavior, and social dynamics with ease.  Instead of spending valuable time on tedious paper-based tasks, teachers can now focus on making the best student placement decisions.

monitor trans 3
monitor trans 3

In the next section, we'll delve deeper into the specific functionalities of Class Composer, highlighting how it enhances the student grouping process. 

Class Composer’s Unique Approach


Student Card

The foundation of our application is the Student Card, which replicates the look and feel of paper. This comprehensive student portrait consolidates all relevant information about a student into one easily accessible place. Other competitors present student information in separate columns, which makes it challenging to obtain a comprehensive view of each student.

Student Cell

Complementing the Student Card is the Student Cell, providing a condensed summary view of each student's key data. The Student Cell is color coded to represent each student’s academic and behavior ratings. The academic colors are purple for great, green for good, and blue for low.  The behavior colors are yellow for low and red for challenging. If low or challenging are selected for behavior, the corresponding colors will replace the default academic colors. The color coding of Student Cells offers a clear visual representation of the core academic and behavior ratings on the Digital Data Wall for an entire grade level.


Digital Data Wall

Our Digital Data Wall serves as a dynamic data visualization tool allowing for easy drag-and-drop adjustments. When a student is moved to another class by dragging and dropping the Student Cell, the totals for all factors across the entire grade level instantly update on the data table.  No more erasing and adjusting numbers on white boards.


Moreover, Class Composer's Algorithm, developed by a Carnegie Mellon University Ph.D. mathematician, instantly creates balanced classes as a starting point on the Digital Data Wall. The Algorithm automatically honors placement requests noted in the Student Card.  From this starting point, teachers can fine-tune student placement, based on their in-depth knowledge of their students, by dragging and dropping Student Cells into other classes. 

composer settings
composer settings

Using our Compose Settings you can customize the Algorithm to automatically group certain identified students into a class for next year.  As an example, you can tell the system to place all the English Language Learner (ELL) students in a grade level into one class right away with the teacher who is a certified ELL instructor. 

Looking beyond class creation, Class Composer offers year-round value with features like Groups (formerly known as Virtual Whiteboard) and Historical Student Record. Our Groups feature enables teachers to quickly create guided reading groups, seating charts, and project-based groups in their classroom or across an entire grade level.  The Historical Student Record allows teachers to view individual student historical data. These tools support ongoing collaboration among educators and provide quick access to vital student information.

Strategies for Effective Student Placement

For achieving well-balanced classes, a strategic approach is beneficial. We suggest a two-step method: first, concentrate on the core factors applicable to all students, then examine secondary considerations that may be relevant to some. The core factors that apply universally to every student include gender, academic level, and behavior ratings.  Examples of secondary considerations are work skills, identified labels (e.g., introvert, extrovert, English Language Learner, Gifted and Talented, Individualized Education Plan) and placement requests. By employing this two-layered strategy, equitable class compositions can be achieved while also accommodating unique individual student needs.

Class Composer makes it easy to visualize the core factors on the Digital Data Wall with our color-coded Student Cells. Teachers can explore the more-detailed secondary considerations by using our Filter or Highlight features to fine-tune results displayed in the Digital Data Wall. This ensures that student placement decisions are comprehensive and well-informed.

The Teacher’s Role in Class List Creation

The teacher's role in class list creation is paramount, as they possess invaluable insights into their students’ strengths, needs, and dynamics. Best practice dictates that teachers should be involved as much as possible in the class creation process, leveraging their intimate knowledge of their students to inform quality placement decisions.

In an ideal scenario, teachers would enter data on their students, drawing upon their firsthand knowledge to provide comprehensive and accurate information. Teachers would then collaborate to create classes for the grade level above them, leveraging collective insights to ensure equitable class compositions. The resulting class lists would be sent up to the administration for review and final approval, with principals making any necessary adjustments based on confidential information that cannot be shared with their teachers.


Manage the Level of Teacher Involvement

Despite the critical role teachers should play in placing students, practices regarding teacher involvement vary among schools. Although some schools may prohibit teacher involvement altogether, others may allow teachers to enter data about their students but restrict their participation in the actual placement process. Despite these variations, it is widely recognized that teacher involvement is essential for creating balanced and effective class lists. Class Composer recognizes schools may have varying preferences regarding teacher involvement, so our platform offers the flexibility for schools to customize the level of that involvement.

Strengthening Diversity and Social Emotional Learning with Class Composer

It’s crucial to consider diversity and social emotional learning (SEL) factors when creating class lists.  Class Composer facilitates these considerations through our customizable identifiers and our Keep with Student placement request features.



Using customizable identifiers, students with various backgrounds, cultures, races and languages can be accounted for during the class list creation process. For example, if there are a small number of Asian (ASN) students within a grade level, their families may desire placement in the same class. With Class Composer, these students can be clearly identified and grouped together in one class, fostering a supportive environment.  

We also include a non binary selection for gender on the Student Card. If selected, the outline of the Student Cell will change color to clearly signify this designation.

Social Emotional Learning

Considering SEL factors when creating class lists is vital for supporting students’ holistic development. Class Composer provides default identifiers for introverts and extroverts, enabling educators to easily visualize these traits across classrooms.  

Teachers can also make Keep with Student requests for certain introverted students, ensuring they are not separated from a supportive friend.


Behavioral Management and Class Composition

Behavioral management is a critical aspect of class composition, influencing student placement decisions significantly. At Class Composer, we recognize the importance of behavior in creating balanced and effective class lists.


Yellow and Red Colored Student Cells

Our platform provides unique color bands for the Student Cell, clearly delineating students with behavioral concerns. Yellow designates a low behavior rating and red designates a challenging behavior rating. These yellow and red colored Student Cells are placed at the bottom of the Digital Data Wall to ensure they are clearly marked during the composition process.

Keep Away from Student

Another key factor in class composition is accommodating Keep Away from Student placement requests. This foundational idea drove the initial development of Class Composer, as it ensures that students who need to be separated for behavioral or social reasons are not placed together again in subsequent years. By prioritizing Keep Away from Student requests, educators can create class lists that promote positive peer interactions and minimize potential conflicts.


Data-Driven Decision-Making in Student Placement

Although teachers and administrators recognize the importance of using data to inform placement decisions, traditional paper-based methods struggle to handle the extensive information required. Beginning with the time-consuming task of manually writing student information on cards, through the sorting process and attempting to tally totals across grade levels on whiteboards, the challenges persist. As class composition nears completion, managing data becomes increasingly difficult, akin to playing a game of Whac-A-Mole. Addressing one issue by moving a student often leads to the emergence of another, necessitating constant adjustments and rebalancing of factors. The complexity of manual data management can deter educators from making necessary adjustments, perpetuating inequitable class compositions.

Class Composer addresses all of these data challenges. At the very beginning, we enable administrators to import student rosters in bulk, along with associated information like assessment scores and identified labels. We are currently developing integrations to automatically retrieve classes and rosters from your district's Learning Management System, Student Information System, or rostering platform. Look for this capability to be available in the summer of 2024. Then, when teachers first access their dashboard, they can immediately begin assessing students on the digital Student Card, rather than spending time gathering and writing this basic information on paper cards. Once the grading process is done for all of the students in a grade level, our algorithm swiftly handles the initial sorting of students within seconds. As students are moved between classes, the data table automatically adjusts all relevant totals, eliminating the manual tallying process. By seamlessly managing this large amount of data, Class Composer empowers educators to make more informed, data-driven decisions in student placement - in less time.

Educational Policy and Class Size Regulations

In many districts, there are guidelines regarding the maximum number of students allowed per class. As an example, when the number of students per class approaches 30, a district may consider adding another class to maintain manageable class sizes. However, the decision to add another class goes beyond simply accommodating a certain number of students. Budget considerations often come into play, influencing whether a new class is feasible within the district's financial constraints. In some cases, districts may opt to create multi-age or split/combined classes as a cost-effective solution to address fluctuations in student enrollment. Multi-age classes, also known as split or combined classes, involve grouping students from adjacent grade levels together in the same classroom. Class Composer allows schools to create multi-age classes seamlessly.

Standardizing Processes with Class Composer

At many schools, each grade level has its own unique way of recording data and sorting students. This lack of consistency often leads to inequities in class compositions.  Class Composer plays a pivotal role in standardizing processes by providing a centralized platform for data recording and student sorting. With its user-friendly interface and customizable features, educators can adopt standardized practices for entering student data, organizing information, and making placement decisions. Ultimately, standardization promotes fairness, transparency, and efficiency in class composition, contributing to positive outcomes for students and educators alike.

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FAQs on Class Lists in Elementary Schools

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