An idea long used by homeschoolers is now being considered by the Adams County school district near Denver, CO. For K-8 students they're dumping grade levels and moving children through based on their actual progress in mastering the subject instead. They call it a Standards Based Educational Model.
We've got to acknowledge that the goal of education is actual mastery, not time in seat. As a taxpayer that's what I intend my taxes to be paying for--children able to read & write, do sums and understand their responsibilities and rights and citizens. I'm completely convinced that this system will result in children who are more willing to expend the effort necessary to make progress. When we give them a clear goal to work toward and reward them with moving on they will. Balance this with emphasizing that all people learn at a different pace, none of which is necessarily wrong or bad, and we'll have freed these students up to concentrate on following the educational path that is best for them...not the system.
The change that's getting by far the most attention is the decision to do away with traditional grade levels – for kids younger than eighth grade, this first year, though the district plans to phase in the reform through high school a year at a time. Ultimately, there will be 10 multiage levels, rather than 12 grades, and students might be in different levels depending on the subject. They'll move up only as they demonstrate mastery of the material.
But Dr. Selleck and others are quick to emphasize that that's only one piece of a radically different, more student-centered, approach to learning – and that it's not the same as tracking, the currently out-of-favor system of grouping students by ability.
Selleck says most parents she talks to are enthusiastic, and the district is doing an enormous amount of outreach and education to explain the changes to them. (She often uses a video game analogy: Students are engaged, take as much or as little time as they need to at each level, and can't move on to the next level until they've mastered the one before it). Christian Science Monitor