One of the only education plans outlined thus far by Gov.-elect Nathan Deal has been an elementary and middle school “Move On Ready” program that allows younger children to advance if they perform well on the CRCT, which Deal says advanced students should be allowed to take whenever ready.
We have discussed grade advancement here before and most folks seem to favor it, but I don’t see it happening much and typically only with parental push. (Thinking it over now, I realize that several of the students I know who skipped ahead had parents in the education field.)
One of the challenges seems to be that there are students who could be in a higher level math or reading, but may not be ready for more advanced science or foreign language. Or they may not be socially agile enough to jump ahead without emotional strife. It would seem a cafeteria-style approach would work better where a talented fourth grader could opt for a fifth grade math or a bright seventh grader could choose an eighth grade language arts class.
Here is a piece on the issue of advancing students by Ryan McCarl, a North Carolina high school history teacher and education blogger. I ran McCarl’s piece on the Monday print education page and wanted to share it here:
This fall Bachar Sbeiti, a gifted 10-year-old who has finished the Ontario, Canada, curriculum through the eighth grade, was refused admission to high school because of his age.
The district apparently did not consider any factors besides how many years had passed since Bachar’s birth in its decision.
No school official argued that he was not academically prepared to take ninth-grade courses. No one disputed that he had finished eighth grade and thus had earned the right to tackle ninth grade.
“Our belief is that we do not accelerate students,” district official Sharon Pyke told the Windsor Star.
We lump children together on the basis of their dates of birth and then put them on a conveyor belt that moves at an identical pace for the majority of students, virtually all of whom are required to spend 13 or more years meandering through an often repetitive and incoherent k-12 curriculum.
This makes sense for school athletics and social traditions; a 10- year-old has no business playing high school football or attending a high school dance.
But it makes little sense for academic education — which is, after all, the core purpose of compulsory schooling.
We regularly speak as though the amorphous term “grade level” refers to progress through the curriculum, but in practice, “grade” is almost always synonymous with “age.”
Most students move from grade to grade simply by showing up. Students are rarely allowed to demonstrate mastery of curricular standards at a particular grade level and then move on to the next level whenever they are ready.
After early childhood, chronological age is almost useless as a predictor of academic ability or achievement.
Every year, some American middle school students labeled “gifted and talented” take college admissions tests and vastly outperform the average high school senior. Fourth-graders take standardized tests and are told that they read “at the 12th-grade level.”
But rather than question the need for such students to trudge on from grade to grade, progressing through the system as they age rather than as they learn, many parents and educators are content to heap admiration on the students, but not present them with challenges that match their abilities and preparedness.
The Canadian district’s decision to deny Bachar access to high school provides a useful illustration of one way in which our education system is based on form rather than function.
The district’s “by the book” approach to Bachar’s case, complete with a blanket denial of his mother’s request for a ninth-grade placement and no apparent attempt to compromise or find an accommodation, is characteristic of a government institution that is not accountable to local parents.
Every day, distant and unaccountable bureaucrats make decisions of this sort that directly affect students’ futures — that open and close pathways of opportunity.
When parents hand over full responsibility for their children’s education to the government and allow their right to influence their child’s education to be eroded until it becomes meaningless, the drive toward centrally dictated uniformity causes parents’ preferences and individual students’ needs to seem irrelevant.
Assisting students such as Bachar will require replacing the stasis and inertia that pervade our education system with competition, innovation and entrepreneurship driven by choice.