Here's a silver lining if I ever saw one. Kansas City, MO, is having to make such deep cuts and changes as part of its reorganization that the school district is willing to try something a little radical: ending the widespread educational obsession with grades. According to an article called "Some schools grouping students by skill, not grade level" in USA Today, the plan calls for students to move forward based on mastering certain skills, not based on 9-year-olds generally being in 4th grade. If you get through the K-12 material in less than 13 years, great. You can start on college. And as KC Superintendent John Covington told USA Today, "This system precludes us from labeling children failures...It's not that you've failed, it's just that at this point you haven't mastered the competencies yet and when you do, you will move to the next level."
In other words, readiness grouping!
As readers of this blog know, the age-grade lockstep is one of the most pernicious ideas in education. Though mounds of research (see A Nation Deceived) has determined that grade skipping is perfectly fine for most advanced kids, schools hate to do it. But organizing children by age for academics doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Kids learn at vastly different paces. Better to have a certain body of knowledge and learning methods that we want educated citizens to know, then let kids take what time they need. Maybe it's 6 years. Maybe it's 15.
I know there are logistical issues with this, but I wish the Kansas City schools the best of luck in this endeavor, and I applaud them for being willing to try something new. Hopefully, when kids are able to learn at a challenging but doable pace, they'll be more excited about learning generally.