Somehow I got from Megan Golding's audacious idea (see here) to the blog Gas Station Without Pumps's discussion of eliminating age-based grade level instruction in math, and instituting placement by achievement.
This approach to placing kids has long been popular with parents of gifted children (though for some reason not with school teachers and administrators). It has gone by many names (subject acceleration, readiness grouping, grouping by ability or skill or mastery, … ). I prefer the name placement by achievement, since we are not accelerating students but letting them move at whatever velocity best suits them, and we can’t measure “readiness” but only what has already been achieved. Ability is not the point, achievement is. I guess that “grouping by mastery” is ok, but “mastery” seems to me a more cumbersome word than “achievement” and “mastering” a subject seems to me appropriate for post-baccalaureate studies.
Personally I prefer "placement by mastery", but reasonable people may differ.
In another post, GSWP discusses the recent article by Bill Evers and Ze'ev Wurman, advancing the idea that the California state math standards are superior to the proposed Common Core standards. (I believe California adopted the Common Core standards -- if Evers and Wurman are correct, look out, afterschooling! -- but I digress).
GSWP goes on:
My opinion is that the whole notion of age-based grade levels is wrong and twiddling with the standards won’t fix that. There is value to having standards that all schools and curricula must meet, but I wish that the standards were not labeled with grade levels. There are students ready for algebra long before 8th grade, and students who are barely ready for it by the end of high school. Having students progress through the standards based on mastery, rather than age, would be greatly helped by not labeling the standards with grade levels.
One specific criticism of the Common Core that Evers and Wurman raise, that there is a big jump at 8th grade because the K–7 standards are too weak to provide sufficient support for the 8th grade algebra standards, is probably a valid one and should certainly be considered by the State Board.
Discussions on the Common Core: