Home > Uncategorized > Solution to Boys’ Schooling Problems: Replace Age-Based Grade Levels

Solution to Boys’ Schooling Problems: Replace Age-Based Grade Levels

This site’s mission is to open and change minds about public education… and one of my repeated calls for change is the abandonment of the age-based grade cohorts in favor of a highly individualized and self-directed form of schooling. An article by Clair Cain Miller in today’s Upshot section of the NYTimes reinforced the need for this change. Ms. Miller’s article describes the massive evidence indicating that boys raised in poverty do more poorly than girls in the same circumstances. There are a host of reasons given, but the primary one was this:

New research from social scientists offers one explanation: Boys are more sensitive than girls to disadvantage. Any disadvantage, like growing up in poverty, in a bad neighborhood or without a father, takes more of a toll on boys than on their sisters. That realization could be a starting point for educators, parents and policy makers who are trying to figure out how to help boys — particularly those from black, Latino and immigrant families.

The article goes on to describe how early intervention and support would help.. but this article, like virtually ALL articles on public education, assumes the notion of grouping children by age cohorts and defining “success” by comparing students to others the same age is somehow natural and inviolable. The way we organize schools is based on an “efficiency” model devised early in the last century when we envisioned schools as factories. One of the reasons boys see themselves as “disadvantaged” is that they mature at a slower rate than girls and when they are compared to girls in a school setting where orderliness and compliance are highly valued they are branded as “failing”. This sets in motion a vicious cycle that ultimately leads to the misbehavior, low test scores, and disaffection for schools described in the article. Instead of figuring out how to force young boys into an outdated organizational model for schooling, why not change the model itself? With today’s technology individualization and personalization is possible. We should use technology to tailor and pace instruction and make the teaching of social skills explicit part of schooling instead of penalizing those who cannot conform to the rules required to impose the factory model on all children.

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