I was part of a live online chat today at MLive/Kalamazoo Gazette. The transcript of the chat comments and my responses can be found here.
The chat was based on testimony I recently presented to the Kalamazoo School Board. The testimony argued that in order to overcome the large achievement gap between low-income students and other students, schools would have to receive substantial extra funds per low-income student. I argued that the research evidence indicates that the required extra funds per low-income student would be at least 60%.
I hasten to add that in order to close the achievement gap, these extra funds would have to be use highly productive programs. By “highly productive”, I mean programs that have strong research evidence that they improve student achievement substantially per dollar spent.
Among these highly productive programs is high quality preschool. I argued that by 3rd grade, high-quality preschool for low-income students could close at least one-third of the achievement gap.
I hope you will investigate the concept of eliminating grade levels. The benefits for those who rise to the top in the subjects they are good at and the extra help that can be gained by focusing on the needs of those students who don’t would benefit both extremes. Of course, we would have to do something about the 18 year old in 3rd grade, but that shouldn’t be happening. This concept goes hand in hand with elimininating social promotion which for one thing led to the standardized testing mania (can’t trust teachers to make accurate assessments, must need standarized testing). Like you said, there may not be any or much research, but my guess is that it hasn’t been tried. That’s not a reason not to investigate. If you do find some research on it, let me know. BTW, I’m a Community College English Instructor, have 5 kids who went to 4 different schools in SW Michigan and have 4 grandkids, 3 of whom go to school in Portage.