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Rain Man
05-16-2011, 10:01 AM
I've always wondered why schools don't operate this way, though this is a level beyond what I'd thought about. Essentially, there are no grades and no grade levels. When you pass one level in a particular topic, you move to the next level.

If you keep doing this through the whole school system, you eventually get to a point where students get a high school diploma when they have mastered all of the learning requirements of getting a high school diploma. I really like how this is designed.

http://www.cnn.com/2011/US/05/14/education.gradeless/index.html?hpt=C2

Westminster, Colorado (CNN) -- It seems like a simple question, but ask Victor Perez and Dulce Garcia what grade they're in and you won't get a traditional answer.

At almost any other school in the country, the 11-year-old friends would be in fifth grade. Not so at Hodgkins Elementary in Westminster, Colorado, where there are no grades and no grade levels. Here, children are grouped together in classes based on their ability, not their age

In literacy class, Victor and Dulce are both in level seven. In math, Victor is in level seven while Dulce is still learning level six.

"He's the highest in the class," said Dulce, who is proud of her friend's achievements.

The move to do away with grade levels throughout the Adams County School District began three years ago. Standards-based learning, as it's called, is founded on the belief that every child learns in different ways and at different speeds. With the school district on an academic watch list, educators here were eager to reverse the slide.

"Every single student is getting an individualized education," said Hodgkins Principal Sarah Gould, who helped usher in the reform at her school two years ago. "We are giving our kids exactly what they need when they need it."
Children work at their own level in each subject and must demonstrate proficiency in various learning targets, achieving a score of 75% or higher before they're allowed to move on to the next level.

During a recent visit to Jennifer Gregg's literacy class, students ranging in age from 8 to 10 were gathered in small groups or working on their own to hit their learning targets. Each table had a basket with books separated into four different reading levels.

Gregg says when she first heard about standards-based learning, she wondered, "How do you juggle that many levels in one classroom?"

Now, she sees the benefits, since students aren't frustrated by work that's too hard, nor bored with assignments that are too easy.

"The kids know exactly what they're working on ... and what they need to do, so it's very empowering for them," she said.
Gregg's students come to her when they're ready to take the proficiency test to move to the next level.

"I don't know if 'hounding' is the right word," Gregg said, "but they definitely will let you know...'Please sign me up.'"

Unlike traditional schools, students at Hodgkins can move up a learning level anytime they're ready, not just at the end of the year. When a visitor asked who had moved up a level in the 2010-11 school year, almost all hands shot up. A large bulletin board in the hallway displays the smiling faces of nearly 400 students who had changed levels in the month of March.

Schools preparing kids for the future? 2010: Traditional vs. Year-round schools
"The time is right for a system that focuses on individual students and lets them progress at their own pace," said education researcher Robert Marzano, who is helping the district develop standards-based learning, a system that was first introduced in the 1960s. "The conversation around the country is about that like it's never been before."

The Adams 50 school district is made up of about 10,000 students, mostly from Hispanic families. About 40% are still learning English. In the last decade, as demographics began to change, standardized test scores fell, leading the district to be placed on an academic watch list.

School board president Vicky Marshall said the district needed something drastic to turn it around. She set out to enlist teachers and parents, aware that without their support, the new system would fail.

High school teachers were among the first to embrace the idea, realizing students would have to have mastered material before moving levels.
Their response, according to Marshall: "'You mean, by the time they get to us they're going to know all ... of the prior material that they should know in biology, in math, in social studies, and I'm not going to have to spend the first three months of their freshman year figuring out what they don't know? ... Wow -- absolutely.'"

Parents, however, did have concerns, especially whether there would be a big age range in some classes.

"We were very quick to say, 'No, we're not going to have someone with a mustache ... sitting next to a 6- year-old.' That's just not going to happen," she said.

Instead, older children at lower levels are given extra help, as they are in traditional middle and high schools.

Standards-based learning in the Adams County School District is currently in place in kindergarten through ninth grade, and will be integrated through all high schools by 2014. But it's not for the faint of heart.

This particular approach was developed by the Re-Inventing Schools Coalition, a nonprofit organization that helped turn around a small, struggling school district in Alaska. Students there went from 0% attending college to nearly 90% going on to secondary education or the military.

The organization's executive director, Wendy Battino, said that in order for standards-based learning to work, schools must have strong leadership and shared vision. Of the approximately 300 schools that have attempted to enact this system, Battino said, half haven't been able to stick with it.

"Superintendents last 2-2 years on average in this country. It's really hard to lead systemic change when you have that much turnover," Battino said.
Community and school support are critical, she said, "so when a leader does leave, you have enough shared vision and stakeholder support that they will hold onto this and it won't leave, despite the next leader."

The message is particularly relevant in Adams County, where the schools superintendent who brought the change recently resigned. And since school board members are are limited to two four-year term limits, the unanimous support may wane if standardized test scores don't improve. So far, they haven't.

In last years' CSAP test, only 39% of Hodgkins' third- graders tested proficient in reading. That's 8% lower than the previous year, before the new system was put in place.

School Board President Vicky Marshall explained that it would take three to five years for any type of major reform to show results.

"So I would say, if within three to five years we're not seeing the kind of results that we project, yeah, it probably could be at risk," she said.
Principal Gould is quick to point out that the initial drop in test scores was expected, since many kids were placed in lower levels to make up for gaps in their educations.

"Our hope and goal is that when this year's test scores come out and the following year's, that progression will just continue to increase," Gould said, adding that test scores don't paint the whole picture.
Discipline problems, Gould said, have decreased 76% in the past two years -- a sign, she said, that the system is working.

"When students are challenged exactly where they need to be," she said, "there's not a lot of time for students to be messing around in class."

AndChiefs
05-16-2011, 10:04 AM
Yeah I read this article earlier and thought the same thing. I've long been a proponent of changing the way schools are run in this country. It seems like we've become geared towards satisfying the lowest common denominator without regard to maximizing the talent of each individual student.

I'm interested to see how this turns out.

Direckshun
05-16-2011, 10:06 AM
I'd like to see a more national version of Race To The Top.

We've implemented that program on a limited basis and it's had sterling results.

Jaric
05-16-2011, 10:08 AM
It will get changed the day little Billy's mother complains that being in the lower rank of whatever subject he doesn't pay attention to hurts his self esteem.

AndChiefs
05-16-2011, 10:13 AM
It will get changed the day little Billy's mother complains that being in the lower rank of whatever subject he doesn't pay attention to hurts his self esteem.

Then little Billy needs to be steered towards trade school or something else that he is good at. Not everyone is meant to be a scientist, scholar, or engineer. Some people have a natural aptitude to perform in these tasks. Others have the ability to make things with their hands or fix broken things that these "smarter" people could never figure out.

Everyone has different strengths and their self-esteem should be built upon those strengths.

Simplex3
05-16-2011, 10:14 AM
I've been advocating this since my first kid started school. The current NCLB system is freaking retarded. The school my two go to is perpetually trying to put them with a lower reading or math group because they want my kids to help the slower kids pass the test.

The current system ensures that kids who need to dig ditches sit around failing algebra instead and ensures that the kids who could be our best and brightest aren't allowed to learn as fast as they can.

Simplex3
05-16-2011, 10:15 AM
Then little Billy needs to be steered towards trade school or something else that he is good at. Not everyone is meant to be a scientist, scholar, or engineer. Some people have a natural aptitude to perform in these tasks. Others have the ability to make things with their hands or fix broken things that these "smarter" people could never figure out.

Everyone has different strengths and their self-esteem should be built upon those strengths.

EVERYONE CAN BE THE PRESIDENT!!!11!!1

Radar Chief
05-16-2011, 10:19 AM
Then little Billy needs to be steered towards trade school or something else that he is good at. Not everyone is meant to be a scientist, scholar, or engineer. Some people have a natural aptitude to perform in these tasks. Others have the ability to make things with their hands or fix broken things that these "smarter" people could never figure out.

Everyone has different strengths and their self-esteem should be built upon those strengths.

Yea well, the world needs ditch diggers too. /Judge Smails

RNR
05-16-2011, 10:21 AM
I encountered this with my son. He was considered gifted and I was pressured to move him up to the next grade and conversation of the possibility of two grades. I refused demanding that the teachers challenge him and did not think it was fair to punish him. My point was he enjoyed sports and I did not want him competing with older kids. I did not want him being the last kid getting a drivers license and the general pressure of being smaller and younger. They basically informed me this was not something they could do. I did not and it worked out fine as he is in college planning a career in mechanical engineering. I do feel he was cheated when younger and question my decision to not move him up and still feel the school was derelict in their duties~

Jaric
05-16-2011, 10:24 AM
Then little Billy needs to be steered towards trade school or something else that he is good at. Not everyone is meant to be a scientist, scholar, or engineer. Some people have a natural aptitude to perform in these tasks. Others have the ability to make things with their hands or fix broken things that these "smarter" people could never figure out.

Everyone has different strengths and their self-esteem should be built upon those strengths.Unpossible.

The way to prepare little Billy for the real world is to creative an environment were results are not expected and no one ever tells him he is wrong because it makes him feel bad.

Just like how things work in the real world.

Jaric
05-16-2011, 10:26 AM
EVERYONE CAN BE THE PRESIDENT!!!11!!1

http://www.profilebrand.com/funny-pictures/category/demotivational/125_potential-fries.gif

donkhater
05-16-2011, 10:28 AM
My high school math teacher did this 25 years ago. My junior year he knew I was bored out of my mind and essentially told me to go at my own pace. By the time I graduated I was 1.5 texts ahead of my classmates and virtually self-taught.

vailpass
05-16-2011, 10:30 AM
I've been advocating this since my first kid started school. The current NCLB system is freaking retarded. The school my two go to is perpetually trying to put them with a lower reading or math group because they want my kids to help the slower kids pass the test.The current system ensures that kids who need to dig ditches sit around failing algebra instead and ensures that the kids who could be our best and brightest aren't allowed to learn as fast as they can.

**** that right now.

MahiMike
05-16-2011, 10:31 AM
In many towns, you'd have 25 y/o 'kids' still at level 5.

Simplex3
05-16-2011, 10:32 AM
**** that right now.

Yeah, every time they try that stunt I remind them that I can afford private schools and wonder aloud what losing my kids' test scores would do to the school's average. They get the hint.

BucEyedPea
05-16-2011, 10:33 AM
In many towns, you'd have 25 y/o 'kids' still at level 5.

LMAO How true! It just may make the public schools look worse adding to mass exodus out of them. My kids school they went at their own pace but they bracketed the ages so no one could take way too long. If that was the case, it was used as a red flag meaning something is wrong with such a student. Those students would be looked at for correction though as there was a reason they were going too slow.

Jaric
05-16-2011, 10:33 AM
In many towns, you'd have 25 y/o 'kids' still at level 5.

I think after a certain age they just hand you a broom and giant ring of keys.

vailpass
05-16-2011, 10:34 AM
Yeah, every time they try that stunt I remind them that I can afford private schools and wonder aloud what losing my kids' test scores would do to the school's average. They get the hint.

Good on you for monitoring close enough to know what is going on.

RNR
05-16-2011, 10:45 AM
I think after a certain age they just hand you a broom and giant ring of keys.

LMAO

Rain Man
05-16-2011, 11:29 AM
In many towns, you'd have 25 y/o 'kids' still at level 5.

Most likely that's true. Some parents may kill me for saying this, but that's when you take those kids and start getting them trained for a lower skill job. If the kid can't master the skills needed for a high school diploma, it's in that kid's best interest to start earning money sooner to get his/her lifetime earnings up. If school's not productive for a student, he/she should start working early to get a leg up on making a living.

Granted, there's probably some diagnostic that needs to happen before that, where you figure out if the student lacks the ability to learn or if they don't want to learn or if they're earnest but have some barrier like an uncaring parent.

Hydrae
05-16-2011, 11:45 AM
I think I have shared some of this with the board before but this is a good place for this.

My youngest has struggled for years with being bored at school. He always had a hard time understanding why the school would not put him in an AP math class. I explained that when you are in the regular level class and only pulling C's they would not think he could handle the higher level. He would never apply himself enough to get out of that situation though and due to the boredom would blow off the homework.

Earlier this year (he is now a sophomore) he switched from college prep classes to study at your own pace, computer based courses. Within a couple of weeks he looked at his mother and said he finally understood why we think he is scary smart. He is finishing up his modules at about twice the pace that is expected and is now planning to complete his high school studies a year early.

Bottom line, while he had to work at the pace of the lowest denominator, he was bored and not getting anywhere. Left to his own devices, he has figured out he is smart and is again excited about learning and attending scool. I had my reservations about this change (I know he plans to go to college, the prep classes have to better for him, right?) but it has really worked out well.

Rain Man
05-16-2011, 11:51 AM
Cool story, hydraebrah.

I think this works both ways. If a kid like yours is bored because the material moves too slow, there's probably another kid who's bored because the material is moving too fast for him. If everyone can take as long as they need to learn the material, whether it's slow, medium, or fast, it would seem to me like people would be more interested.

That said, I have no expertise or experience in this area, so if the teachers in the room disagree they probably take precedence. I just really like this system in theory.

BigCatDaddy
05-16-2011, 11:56 AM
As long as it doesn't screw up the athletic programs :)

headsnap
05-16-2011, 12:17 PM
My youngest is currently is a school that does this, like the article they don't have actual grades, they go in groups. His older brother & sister go to a private school(we pulled them out of the Public Schools for the same issue that Simplex3 mentioned earlier in the thread.) Last year when my son Egan started at the same private school as the other two, they 'informed' us after about two weeks that he wasn't ready for school and should sit out a year. As the his parents we knew what was going on in the little boy's head and holding him back was not the right choice. We were able to get him into the Depaul School and he has thrived ever since. They have no actual Kindergarten so he entered the school as a Group 1 with the first grade aged kids with the thought of keeping him in partially in Group 1 this year. Now in his 2nd year there he is in Group 2 and doing some group 3 stuff. He reads at a 3.5+ grade level, the six-year-old is devouring books like nobody's business, it's awesome.



we currently have 3 kids in three different schools... it's a pain in the ass but it's worth it!

BucEyedPea
05-16-2011, 12:21 PM
My kid's school has a final and they record that grade. But if it's a fundamental course like math, grammar, spelling or reading anything less than 100% sends them to the correction unit until they have full understanding—or they do NOT move on.

This way they don't move on over misunderstandings.