My Take on Grade Levels

NPR article

September 12, 2016 7:00 AM ET
Anya Kamenetz

“Currently, the evidence suggests that between 15% and 45% of students enter the late-elementary classroom each fall already performing at least one year ahead of expectations. Our initial question – How many students are learning above grade level? – needs to be extended. The more important questions may be:

  1. How should we reorganize our schools, now that we know that large numbers of these students exist?
  2. How can we best meet these students’ learning needs, if they already have mastered much of the year’s content before the year has even started? And lastly,
  3. How can schools balance the potential for excellence against the need to achieve basic proficiency, when the variation in student achievement within classrooms and schools is so vast?

The current K-12 education system essentially ignores the learning needs of a huge percentage of its students. Knowing this, 20 years from now we may look back and wonder why we kept using age-based grade levels to organize K-12 education for so long.”

Research link

What this research says to me is that forcing children into a grade level schemata of schooling ignores the fundamental principle of learning. Not only does it disenfranchise those they have identified as the 15%-45% of children already performing above grade level, it also leaves out those that are not at the identified grade level. The teacher is left to navigate this divide and to bring every child forward. By virtue of the school design (grade levels) this is always a challenge.

A quote from my book, Learning Unleashed on this topic.

“…Setting an arbitrary end date by way of completing a grade level is ludicrous and flies in the face of everything educators learn in undergraduate psychology courses and have come to understand more clearly from brain research…children learn in different ways and at different rates.”

My book offers a solution to this perplexing problem.https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781475829198

This quote from the research is worth repeating. I just wonder if anyone is really listening or really cares.

“The current K-12 education system essentially ignores the learning needs of a huge percentage of its students. Knowing this, 20 years from now we may look back and wonder why we kept using age-based grade levels to organize K-12 education for so long.”

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