Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Could be a good idea...

I was taken aback when I saw the headline "Colorado School District Drops Grade System". But, after reading the very short story, I might could get behind such an idea for both primary and secondary education. Following the link to the local coverage of the story gives a little more detail:

The move includes traditional letter grades and grade levels.

The Adams County School District 50 school board approved a new system that lets students progress at their own pace.

Students will need to master 10 skill levels to graduate. They could end up graduating earlier, or later than fellow classmates. It just depends upon how long they need in order to master the skills.

District administrators says the new system will focus on students' competence, rather than achievement for grades.

They'll be doing this for both K-8 and high school. I would be curious about what the skill levels are, and how students are evaluated as they progress. What happens is they are excelling in one area, but are woefully lacking in another? I'm all about making sure students can gain competence in the skills necessary to succeed in life. One of the hardest parts, I think, about educating children today in the public school environment is that a teacher (especially a general education classroom teaching in elementary school) will have students with all different kinds of skill levels, and the teacher is expected to meet the needs of all of them. Some students just don't learn as fast as others; some students learn much faster than their classmates. So, it often seems that teachers have two options: to keep moving ahead, which leaves the slow students to fall further and further behind (and often developing into students with behavioral problems because they desire to avoid school work that they don't understand or is too difficult for them), or to slow down to make sure those slow students can keep up, which is "dumbing down" education for all the rest of the students (and this can lead to those other students getting bored and getting into trouble as a result).

"Tracking" became un-PC somewhere along the line, but the kids know, whether or not they are "tracked" by their abilities: they know who the smart kids are, and who are the kids who have trouble comprehending the work. Put all the really bright kids in one class, all the "on grade level" kids in another, and the kids who need extra help in yet another class. Going back to "tracking", especially if it allows students to progress at their own pace (while giving them goals to reach to keep them encouraged and engaged), could go a long way towards saving failing public schools around the country.

1 comment:

Norm said...

This may be of interest...