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McGraw-Hill exec: tech will make us rethink age-grouping in schools


Technology for classrooms has been increasing in the last few years. With sites such as Khan Academy, teachers have been changing the typical classroom setting. Kai Mae Heussner asks the question how much further will the education system change. Students can already take courses at local colleges to expand their education while still in high school. Heussner predicts that school systems will switch from dividing students by age to sorting them by competency. This would allow students to move at their own pace and master the concepts presented in class.


Q1. How will the issue help or hinder student learning?

Sorting by students by competency will overall help the students. I have been in so many classrooms where students are left behind because they move at a much slower pace than the rest of the class. There are high school students with gaps in their basic math skills. This is because they were able to get lost in the class and just get by. Elementary and middle school students are rarely held back, even if they technically failed the grade. By blurring the lines for what defines a grade, teachers can make sure students understand the material.

This structure for classrooms will only be a problem as the age differences become greater. Placing a typically fourth grade student in middle school might fit well with his/her intellectual abilities but we must also consider psychological and emotional differences of fourth and eighth graders. The maturity difference between even a few years during childhood and adolescence can be harmful to some students. Certain age groups can be mean, and when a student is a lot younger, or a lot older than the average age, they will more likely be picked on than others in that grade. There is a definite benefit to interaction amongst similar aged peers.


Q2. How will the issue affect your relationship with your students, parents, colleagues, and/or principals?

By sorting students based on competency, my relationship with students should become better. A lot of students dislike their teachers because teachers expect more than a student is prepared for. The teacher assumes that the student has kept up with everyone else in the class when that simply isn’t the case. Students then become frustrated in class, because they don’t understand the material and the class isn’t slowing down so that they can catch up. When a classroom is set up to meet individual needs, a student will be less apt to feel frustrated and can learn to enjoy the subject and the teacher (me) can become more of a mentor, instead of a prison guard.


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