JOURNALING CHAOS 3: “Ticket to Denver”


The “I Ching” teaches that “Before there can be great brilliance… there must be chaos.”

This is PART 3 in a series of blog posts that document our research, strategic thinking, observations and debates as we take on one of the last vestiges of the industrial revolution: the practice in schools of organizing kids into grade levels according to their chronological age.  

twd class-1So what if we organized our students for instruction according to the martial arts, mastery-based model that is thousands of years old instead of the archaic, age-driven system that we all perpetuate today?

For starters:

• Students would be grouped according to where they are on the continuum of standards.

• We wouldn’t need grade level groupings at all.

• Students would move fluidly forward and back according to their demonstrated needs and evidence of mastery.

• Teaching would be far more differentiated.

• Students would progress at their own pace.

With regard to testing:

• Some 11 years-olds would take the 4th grade version of the California Standards Test… because that is the level they are ready for.

• Some 11 year-olds may take the 7th grade test.

• Some 11 year-olds might take the 5th grade test for math, but the 3rd grade test for language arts.

• Every student would be “at grade level” because, as in Taekwondo, they would be taking a test to demonstrate what they can do.  It is geared to their level… so they will all be–by definition–“proficient”.

• Since all students would be proficient, schools would not show up as “Program Improvement” and the states’ metrics that are now based on counting percentages of proficient students would be obsolete.  So they will need new metrics.

Since we are a charter school known for our willingness to try stuff,  we are intent on pursuing this model.  We know we will have to do our homework and that we will be accused of ‘gaming the system.’  And yet, our real intention is to completely align our school– curriculum, assessment, and student groupings–  to a standards-based model.

The Adams County School District 50 in Denver, Colorado is already taking a courageous lead on this.  So I’m going to Denver to see how it works.


Cross-posted on Leadertalk

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Filed under California charter schools, charter schools, El Milagro, Un-graded schools

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