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This School District is Experimenting With Having No Grade Levels

By Victor Trammell and Nomalanga Mhauli-Moses

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Traditional public schools in state-run and taxpayer-funded districts in municipalities all across the United States have a K-12th grade academic merit system that children and teens must maneuver.

State governments often mandate that children in primary and secondary schools undergo standardized testing, which helps public educators determine whether or not students are academically prepared to perform at their own grade level. In 2013, according to the Council For American Private Education, roughly 87 percent of school-age children in the United States attend traditional public schools.

Also in 2013, CBS News reported that the United States spends more money on public education per student than any other nation’s government in the world. However, regardless of the high dollar amount that America splurges on children and education, this nation does not even rank in the top 20 countries of the world with the highest-quality national education programs when it comes to math and science, reports the Pew Research Center.

If the ranking of America’s education system has fallen on the global front throughout the decades with the cost per student rising, why is the fundamental grade level merit system still being used? Conflict theorists are thinkers who believe that in order to fix a broken system or even take the first basic steps to repair it, a radical transformation must happen, which overhauls every facet of that system from top to bottom.

In the U.S. state of North Dakota, the Northern Cass School District in the city of Hunter is engaging in a non-traditional academic merit system, which does not rely on the K-12 grading scale. It gives students the power to plan customized paths toward graduation that only place same-age students around one another during activities, such as physical education days and class field trips.

These academic merit systems are known as competency programs. However, the Northern Cass public school district is revolutionary in the sense that it has completely abolished grade levels for the past three academic years. Cory Steiner, the district’s Superintendent also believes that standardized tests are overrated and that he wants to endorse a plan for his school system to not take them so seriously.

“We’ll do whatever we have to do for testing. But we won’t put any extra effort or incentive into them. They’ll be something we have to do and move on,” Steiner told the Hechinger Report.

Though the Northern Cass story of bravely executed radical change is notable, readily able parents also have the ability and resources to achieve such academic change while providing their own children’s education.

For more information and a step by step guide on how to transition your children and family to homeschooling, visit:

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