For starters, when the elementary and middle-school students come back next fall, there won't be any grade levels – or traditional grades, for that matter. And those are only the most visible changes in a district that, striving to reverse dismal test scores and a soaring dropout rate, is opting for a wholesale reinvention of itself, rather than the incremental reforms usually favored by administrators.I'm cynical about such projects. It will be interesting to see how this turns out.
The 10,000-student district in the metropolitan Denver area is at the forefront of a new "standards-based" educational approach that has achieved success in individual schools and in some small districts in Alaska, but has yet to be put to the test on such a large scale in an urban district...
The district is training teachers to involve students in the lesson plan in a far greater way than before – the students articulate their goals and develop things such as a code of conduct as a classroom. And when children fall short of understanding the material, they keep working at it. The only "acceptable" score to move on to the next lesson is the equivalent of a "B" in normal grading – hopefully showing proficiency and giving kids a better foundation as they move on to more advanced concepts. Advocates sometimes describe it as flipping the traditional system around so that time, rather than mastery of material, is the variable...
Scheduling is a big one (complication). It's also unclear what will happen if large numbers of kids arrive in high school still unable to demonstrate proficiency in certain subjects, like math, and a bottleneck gets created. Since no student can move forward without a "B" equivalent, it's also essentially impossible for students to have lower than a 3.0 GPA, which could be a challenge to explain to colleges.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
No Grades or Grade Levels--Until High School
Sure, let kids work at their own pace and even solicit their input in lesson planning. Let them think that learning is one big kumbayyah fest--and then let high school slap them in the face.