WESTMINSTER, COLO. - School districts across the US are trying to improve student performance and low test scores. But few have taken as radical an approach as Adams 50.
For starters, when the elementary and middle-school students come back next fall, there won't be any grade levels – or traditional grades, for that matter. And those are only the most visible changes in a district that, striving to reverse dismal test scores and a soaring dropout rate, is opting for a wholesale reinvention of itself, rather than the incremental reforms usually favored by administrators.
The 10,000-student district in the metropolitan Denver area is at the forefront of a new "standards-based" educational approach that has achieved success in individual schools and in some small districts in Alaska, but has yet to be put to the test on such a large scale in an urban district.
This is pretty much how we designed Feinstein High School ten years ago. And it constantly amazes me that well into the second decade of a concerted nationwide push for "standards," while all the pundits and politicians are firing up the mighty Wurlitzer for "national standards," that it is still an unconventional idea. To do "standards-based" reform in schools that don't actually organize evaluation, reporting, promotion and grouping based on standards is... how should I put this... total fucking bullshit.
And it isn't that radical. What you're talking about is going from an American factory model to a Japanese factory model. But you know, if you're not talking about creating your perfect little hippie school or alternative, that's is enough. If you're trying to move public school districts in the right direction in a sustainable way, this is the way to do it.
It would be interesting to read a good insiders analysis of why the Re-Inventing Schools Coalition isn't raking in all the press and big foundation bucks.