“Why does Yorktown Education not use Grade Levels?”
- February 5, 2019
- Posted by: Lori Gordon
- Category: Student-Centered Learning
It is a question that we hear often, and it can be a bit of an odd discussion to say that your child is not in 4th grade but is in Cohort 2. What does that mean when your child is in Cohort 2, rather than 4th grade? That means that your child is receiving the education that is appropriate for him/her. Research states that between 20-50 percent of students are somewhere other than their age-based grade level*.
When a child is in an age-based grade classroom, the lessons are given solely based on the student’s age, rather than by the student’s needs. These lessons may be above, or below what the student needs to be learning to get the knowledge to provide a solid foundation for the future. By having cohorts rather than grade levels, Yorktown Education can provide assistance in both your child’s academic and social/emotional needs, which increases learning opportunities in every student.
When discussing the needs of a child, we must first evaluate not only the academic/cognitive needs, but also the social/emotional needs necessary. Whether the child is below level, on level, or above level, the child has needs on multiple levels depending on his or her strengths.
At Yorktown Education, we evaluate every individual in a variety of formative assessments to ensure that we are addressing the needs of each child. Socially and emotionally, we want to make sure that each student has all skills necessary to be successful, especially once he or she is ready for a college schedule. This starts with Cohort 1, learning to work cooperatively and verbalize his or her needs, gradually increasing in skills as the student moves up through the cohort system. Once we have established the best placement for the child, academically and socially, we will begin instruction there. This means, that if a child is age-wise a 4th grader, he or she may work on 4th grade reading or writing, but 5th grade math, or even higher. Socially, the student would be in Cohort 2, which is right around that 4th grade level.
Teachers also pay attention that the pacing the child shows is appropriate. Some lessons are a little tougher than others, and that’s okay. The teacher will compact as necessary, but also extend and give further practice as needed. The student is never held to the pace of the teacher or other students. We will never, and educators should never, assume a child will regress to the mean and not challenge because of that.
A famous educational psychologist, Lev Vygotsky, discussed working within a child’s Zone of Proximal Development. This is the “sweet spot” of learning for each child where he or she is sufficiently challenged, but also not frustrated. We recognize that. We address that. We love that.
*(Peters, S. J., Rambo-Hernandez, K., Makel, M.C., Matthews, M. S., & Plucker, J. A. (2017) “Should Millions of Students Take a Gap Year? Large Numbers of Students Start the School Year Above Grade Level.”
*Gifted Child Quarterly, 61(3), 229-238).