As anyone with school aged children knows, education trends change like the direction of the wind.
Children with disabilities have gone from being isolated to being merged with the rest of the school’s population, while the idea of testing has gone from don’t test, track grades by projects and classroom progress to test, test, test.
These ideas and procedures change constantly as we struggle to figure out what will best help our children learn core concepts and grow up to be responsible, educated, employable adults.
Now the Adams 50 school district in Colorado has decided that a complete overhaul of the educational system in their community is needed to combat the high dropout rates and poor testing results. I’m not talking a small change, like more standardized testing across the grade levels.
I’m talking about doing away with grade levels – and the standard A-F grades – altogether!
The concept is known as standards-based education, and you can read more about it in depth here.
I heard about this on the radio this morning and then came home to do some research. This is what I’ve found:
This new system in Adams 50 focuses on the idea that children should be learning and promoted according to their ability level, and should be promoted as they master a certain set of skills, regardless of their age. The children will work from one level to the next, until they have mastered all ten levels, rather than jumping from grade to grade until they reach their senior year.
So it doesn’t matter if a child is, say, eight and has not yet mastered a core concept that most seven year olds – or second graders – have mastered. Instead he can continue to work on that skill until he can show mastery; he will then move on to the next level.
In this model, time is no longer a factor. The student doesn’t have to figure out this skill by June 8, when school is out for summer and he is supposed to graduate and move on to the next grade. Instead, he can continue to work on that skill until he has it mastered.
In addition to these changes, children will also have some say in the way they are taught. They will get to help develop their goals and lesson plans, and once they have mastered a skill can also help others who have not.
I’m very interested to see how this progresses. Could it be the change that education needs in order to help more students achieve, or is it another potential fad that will fall by the wayside down the road?
I’d also love your input and feedback on this type of standards based system. Do you think it could work. Why or why not? If your child were part of this school district how would you feel about these changes?