I saw this in our paper yesterday.
Forget grade levels
It's interesting to see how ed school thought can be spun any which way.
"The current system of public education in this country is not working" said Superintendent John Covington. "It's an outdated, industrial, agrarian kind of model that lends itself to still allowing students to progress through school based on the amount of time they sit in a chair rather than whether or not they have truly mastered the competencies and skills."
Students progress through school only if they allow them to progress. When I grew up, kids were held back or had to go to summer school. Apparently, since then, they've moved to an "industrial, agrarian kind of model". This is really stupid thinking.
With this new model, are they going to continually keep kids in second grade if they don't pass the proficiency test? Speaking of which, I assume that these are minimal grade level state tests. However, it might force schools to actually try to get kids to pass the exam and not just "trust the spiral". It will force them to deal with the issues sooner rather than just pass the problems along and then blame the kids or parents or poverty.
"This system precludes us from labeling children failures," Covington said. "It's not that you've failed, it's just that at this point you haven't mastered the competencies yet and when you do, you will move to the next level."
What about the 12 year old who still hasn't gotten past the 2nd grade material? What about differentiated learning? That's not a "factory model". However, both models have the same core philosophy. The onus for learning is on the kids and there is no direct teaching. At least the approach descrbed here allows kids to accelerate out. I don't know what they are accelerating to or around, but it at least forces schools to define what is required knowledge and skills for each grade. Unfortunately, we know what those standards are.
"Greg Johnson, director of curriculum and instruction for the Bering Strait School District in Alaska, recalled that before the switch there were students who had been on honor roll throughout high school then failed a test the state requires for graduation."
Incompetence. How is that going to change with the new model? They will show kids the state tests for each grade and leave it up to them to meet the low cutoffs. Then they will have kids who meet the low state graduation requirements when they are 14. What next? They will have kids stuck as sophomores. What next?
Will they have low and high grade level standards, not just pass/fail cutoffs? What will high grades mean for kids? Will they properly map the math required (and test grades) for algebra in 8th grade back to Kindergarten?
At least this model forces schools to deal with these issues. With differentiated instruction, their heads are completely in the sand - or somewhere else.