Westminster Switches to Standards System (the Next Doogie Howser?)

As I look forward to my full-time education here in Colorado, I have to wonder if innovative ideas like the program Westminster School District has started will catch on. From a 9News report (including video) (H/T Complete Colorado):

The district will shed the traditional kindergarten through 12th grade system in exchange for a standards-based model with assessment levels of one through ten. Students of different ages will be grouped together by assessment level. Students can only move on the next level if they show proficiency in the standards at their level.

“There’s nothing magic about nine months in a classroom or at a particular grade level,” said [superintendent] Dr. [Roberta] Selleck. “The critical component in our standards-based model is that time becomes the variable.”

This model was developed by smaller school districts in Alaska. Adams 50 will be the first larger school district in the nation to eliminate grade levels, certainly the first in Colorado.

Dr. Selleck says this will allow students to learn and advance at their own pace. Some students will be able to move up levels during the school year, while others may take more than one school year before moving up.

Wow! I just have a few quick things to say.

First, more power to Westminster (Adams 50) for the boldness and vision to try something different. Switching the focus from seat time to standards has the potential to direct resources more efficiently and produce better academic results.

Second, a lot of eyes – including little ones here – will be watching to see how Westminster implements this program and how well they pull it off. I have reservations about whether a relatively large, government-run school district can succeed with this sort of revolutionary change, while maintaining enough support from parents and other taxpayers in the community.

Third, even if the switch to standards from seat time works in Westminster, the standard caution must be observed: This can only be part of the education reform solution, definitely not a silver bullet.

Finally, as I look to start 1st grade and full-time school in the fall, I can’t help but think this kind of system would help me. But just how quickly could I earn a high school diploma if I didn’t have to wait for the calendar to change to move up? This guy could be my inspiration: