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Re: Kindergarten Reading Exit Exams

L. Cirincione wrote:

> I have to say that I get a bit tired of the grade level debate "to pass...or
> not to pass....". That is NOT the question! Our entire public school system
> is based on a false premise: that all kids of the same age can function at
> the same level in every subject. THIS is the real issue that needs to be
> addressed. If anyone suggested that a university be run this way, the person
> would be laughed (or thrown) out of the discussion.
> What we need to do is run the public schools on the same type of basis that
> we would run a college program:
> 1) there is a "core curriculum" of mandatory subjects & levels (ie. Reading
> 802, Writing 301, Math 501, etc.) that a child must have proven proficiency
> in
> 2) there is a certain number of credits that must be earned, including the
> core credits, in order to obtain a diploma

(etc etc etc)

Louise may want to take a look at the proposals made by Ted Sizer in his series
of Horace books. I don't hae time to go pull them out this am, but as I
remember it, he proposed something not to far from what you are advocating.
That is, there is a core that must be achieved, say by about 10th grade.
Thereafter students have an undefined period of time to demonstrate some
mastery level.

It may not be exactly what you are proposing, but might be well worth your

Form my own perspective, and having taught everything from 7th through 12, and
English and Rrading as well as various Social Studies (Combinied with some SAT
math prep), I am ever increasingly of the opinion that our entire idea of grade
levelling is detriomental to a large number of students. In my current 7th
grade group of 91 kids, I have, as recently noted, some functioning at levels
as low as 4th grade. I also have several students, let me call tham X, Y, Z,
who are functioning so far beyond 7th grade that nothing I can do within the
framework of even a class limited to 20 students can hope to challenge them.
Now, none of these three young men, nor the equivalent three young ladies whose
writing shows a consistent depth of insight that for some reason (perhaps
social) they will not display verbally, is emotionally ready to be where their
academic level would place them in my content area - all six can easily
function at a high school level, with at least two (one of each gender) able to
function at around an 11th grade level - the writing, the verbal expression,
the ability to make non-bovious connections. Even our fairly good middle
school is doing these chidlren a disservice. As a reulst they will sometimes
zone out, or cuase behavior problems, becuase it is so easy for them to get
bored. Or frustrated - they want to pursue insights that the others in the
classes cannot grasp.

There is always the argument about how fast we should move kids through
schools. That argument is based on the premise that Louise is challenging -
that there are grade levels that must be moved through sequentially. And
unfortunately our increased emphasis on testing will lock us further into this
outdated paradigm. Do we then do what was done to my mother, who graduated
from Hunter College High School at age 14, but never really gorw up? Do we do
what is done to so many others (including me, btw), who are maintained at grade
level for social rasons and thus get so bored they become disruptive [side
thought - nowadays the behavior I exhibited when bored in elementary school
would probably get me doped up with ritalin].

The late Benjamin Fine, one-time education writer for the NY Times, founded a
school called Sands Points, which if memory serves, was based on the principal
that students should be challenged, notaccelearted. That is, use the ability
of these students to explore subjects in greater depth.

I know - I'm rambling - this is NOT as thoughtful as the post to which I am

I still think that there is a social component to education which warrants
children experiencing those of different levels in the classroom. It could be
met by having mixed grade groups - that is, don't keep all 12 year olds
together, but within a 10-14 age group, mix them up by subject matter. It
could involved having children who are stronger assist in the instruction of
those who are weaker - explaining to another is often a very good way of
learing material ing reater depth. THis could be another way of accomplihsing
what cooperative learning is supposed to - building the skills to get along
with others in larger society.

But none of these approaches will be possible in en evnironment which is
lock-stpe sequential progression in order to meet the needs of the great
testing machine.

I'm going to save Louise's message, and ponder it in depth later this week.
Thanks for provoking my mental processes.

Ken bernstein

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