OUR FAILURE IN STUDENT PLACEMENT FOR INSTRUCTION
Look to the practices used in the highest levels of education as an example: In the collegiate levels of upper-division or post-graduate instruction, can just anybody enroll in classes? Not hardly.
Each individual course of instruction has its own list of pre-requisites. This is because these “high-stakes” programs take their enterprise very seriously: our society just can’t afford to certify sub-standard doctors, engineers, research scientists, etc.
Shouldn’t every level of education be taken just as seriously? Do we see primary school reading and math as “high-stakes” curriculum?
Current student performance statistics suggests that we don’t take K-12 education nearly seriously enough. We have only to look at the ever-inflating, tax-dollar-devouring judicial and penal systems in America to see an indication of just how “high-stakes” elementary, middle, and high school education really is.
Consider this: With everything we now know about “how people learn,” about the development and function of the human brain, about multiple intelligences, about how early language development and sensory stimulation affects later learning, about how nutrition and a host of other socio-economic factors affect learning and motivation – How is it that with all our vast knowledge about these complexities that give rise to such diversity in our children, we still persist in placing K-12 students in their educational settings based on their birthday?
The objection is raised: “But it’s the only fair way to do it. It’s objective, and everyone gets the same opportunity.”
Traditional placement by birthday only gives the superficial appearance of objectivity and equality. In fact, it is the most unfair and unjust way to begin a child on their pathway through school.
The birthday criterion actually denies the child equal opportunity. Real equal opportunity means that every child will be given educational experiences for which they are prepared. Such placement would provide students with legitimate success experiences, as we bring them carefully along through the necessary benchmarks.
Our current system takes the most fragile of humans (the kindergartener) and says, “Join the race kid, and you better keep up, and we don’t care if your starting blocks are fifty or a hundred yards behind someone else’s. This is your chance, kid. Don’t blow it!”
On the flip-side of this situation, this same system often holds kids back. When are students ever allowed to get ahead of the teacher? It’s extremely rare when a student is allowed to get ahead of the class.
How many bright minds have been dulled by needless repetition, or by having curiosity and the thirst for deeper understanding stifled because those needs didn’t fit into the agenda for the day? What has been the cost of this failure to our society?
We need to be able to admit without embarrassment or shame that our children are all individuals. We need to accept that they are NOT all the same, and that all of them carry their own unique set of factors that will influence the rates and ranges of their achievements. How long will we continue to force conformity on them, in a one-size-fits-all system that negates their intrinsic self-worth, and effectively closes the door to life-long fulfillment?
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