(Second in a series of thought-provoking topics. A new idea will be presented each Tuesday until election day, November 4.)

Part of what hinders real progress in any organization, public or private, is bureaucratic entrenchment. Bureaucrats hate change and do everything in their power to preserve the status quo. That’s why it’s so hard to introduce a new, radical idea such as … getting rid of grade levels. Here is a short story about the concept from eSchool News, June 6, 2011:

Some forward-thinking school systems, such as the Kansas City, Missouri, School District, have begun experimenting with the concept of grouping students by ability instead of age—an idea that Kurt D. Steinbach, a social studies, ESL, and ELA teacher, agrees with wholeheartedly.

“End age grading. In other words, end the practice whereby students are assigned and assumed to be in or on their proper grade level according to their age instead of their (demonstrated) ability level,” he wrote. “No more age grading would eliminate the need for social promotion and the stigma associated with being held back. With students at different ‘grade levels’ in each subject area, the problems for students not reading and writing at the 3rd grade level by the end of the 3rd grade (after which students take two years to catch up for every year they fall behind) would disappear.”

Does this sound reasonable? I believe it sounds reasonable enough to warrant further examination.

School improvement idea #2: Provide a best practices review of grouping students by ability, not age.