The War Against Grade-Skipping
I came across two interesting news items in the past week about children who sail over the age-grade lockstep (i.e., who "accelerate" or skip grades).
First, 5-year-old Alison Bomkamp and the Kenton County School District in Kentucky are battling over a $3,000 bill the district sent her parents. Young Alison was doing fine reading and writing, so her parents put her in first grade, instead of her age-grade of kindergarten. One problem: Kentucky only pays for half-day kindergarten. Since Alison, as a 5-year-old, is now using a whole day's worth of schooling every day, when 5-year-olds are supposed to be using only a half-day, the district sent her parents a bill for $3,000. That amounts to half the cost of educating a student for a year in the district.
I'm serious. You can read about it here:
Leave aside the fact that this makes no sense (Alison is saving the school district money, in fact -- she'll only use 12 years of schooling, or grades 1-12, instead of 13, or K-12). It's part of a broader distrust of grade-skipping. Around the country, parents and teachers are being told that grade-skipping is undesirable. For instance, the second news item, from the Northwest Arkansas Times.
The school board in Elkins, Arkansas just approved an official acceleration policy. Read about it here:
I'm happy they approved a policy. But read the quotes in the article from Superintendent Allen:
>>While the district now has a policy in place to evaluate such requests, Allen said acceleration should probably be done only on rare occasions. It should not be a regular occurrence.
There are many advanced students who would be better served staying in the same grade, Allen said. Based on Elkins’ enrollment, Allen has estimated the district probably shouldn’t accelerate more than one or two students a year.
If it becomes much more common, they should revisit the policy, he said. "I think it would be worse to promote a child and then later put him back down," he said.
Years ago while working as a math teacher, Allen recalled, the school he worked for instituted an Algebra program for young math students. Several children who were placed in the program struggled because they weren’t ready for math at that level, and moving them up early turned out to not be in their best interests.<<
Ah, it's that "one child" or "several children" from "years ago." Sometime I would like to meet this one child who had such a horrible experience with grade acceleration that she's kept countless others from moving ahead at their own level. It must have been so horrible on this one child, that the Kenton County school district in Kentucky is charging the Bomkamps $3,000 lest they be tempted to put their daughter through such a horrible ordeal!
Nonsense. I am married to a man who is 10 years older than me. I work with people my age, people younger than me, people 25 years older than I am. I am happy to count among my friends people who are 20 and people who could be my parents. School is the only time in life you spend the majority of your time with people who have birthdates within 6 months of your own. So why are so many school districts, like these in Kentucky and Arkansas, so enamored with keeping students in their place?