Tuesday, March 29, 2005

An Elementary School Without Grade-Level Classes?

An elementary school located in Michigan's Carman-Ainsworth School District, is thinking about doing away with traditional grade-level classes:

Carman Park Elementary School may soon be a grade-free school.

Students would learn based on ability level, regardless of age. If a fourth-grader is ready for algebra, he or she would be grouped with children of varying ages studying algebra.

Teachers would no longer teach the same lesson to 25 students. Instead, educators would visit groups of five to seven students for instruction.

The concept - called nongraded or multi-age education - isn't new, but it's unusual for a school district to eliminate grades. Carman Park would be the first public school in Genesee County to do so, and the concept may spread to all schools in Carman-Ainsworth.

Superintendent of schools, Dan Behm, had been considering discarding grade-level classes since he began his tenure four years ago:
"Right now, we have a mass production system of education," Behm said. "We need a system that individualizes and is customizable."
It is said that great rewards involve great risk, and Superintendent Behm is certainly risking his good will with parents should this idea backfire...
The earliest it would be in place is 2006-07, and Carman Park teachers and administrators could end up not recommending nongraded education.Behm, however, said he is convinced it's a solid approach, and some experts agreed.
The Superintendent has some definite ideas concerning the teacher's role in this new-approach-to-an-old-idea:
"The teacher should be a guide, rather than a transmitter of knowledge," Behm said. "Kids don't need to have someone drill them on the capitals of the 50 states. That's an obsolete use of time."
I like the idea of being a "guide." It has a nice ring to it. But as an actively serving California classroom teacher, I haven't heard the word guide used to describe classroom teaching duties since sometime in the late '90s when "Whole Language" was being touted as the panacea for what ailed American public education. Now-a-days, our superintendent styles principals and above as "professional educators" and classroom teachers as "service providers."

Other Voices: Jenny D asks an excellent question .
An Invitation: All writers and readers of education-related posts are invited to contribute to the eighth edition of The Carnival of Education. Please send your submissions to: owlshome [at] earthlink [dot] net. We should receive your contributions no later than 10:00 PM (Pacific) Tonight, March 29, 2005. The Carnival midway will open here at the 'Wonks Wednesday morning. Get additional details about The Carnival here, and the latest edition there.

Main Page/Latest Posts