Skills Grouping Versus Age Cohorts, Lifelong Learning
Dividing students by age (3rd Grade, 4th Grade, etc.) is a failed social experiment. "Failed" doesn't begin to describe the magnitude of the catastrophe. Alienated, uninvolved children who age into alienated, uninvolved adults is one aspect. The bizarre concept developed from the ideology of industrial education, the idea that students are like widgets on an assembly line, to be processed uniformly. Some of our best citizens and leaders have gone to schools in which one teacher dealt with students of various ages This "traditional country school" approach may not fit large schools, but the concept can be adapted. As the general rule, children must spend most of their time in, learning from and contributing to multi-generational local communities, allowing of course some time and opportunity for children of similar age to interact and be friends.
Grades by age are to be de emphasized, and grouping by level of skills development is to be emphasized. For example, there might 7 levels of reading achievement in the K-12 environment. A person assigned to a particular level would work with others at that level, and also be required to help those in lower levels and also required to receive tutoring from those in higher levels. A person might be permitted to graduate after having achieved, say, level 5 reading skills development, with the opportunity to return later to continue skills development to higher levels.
Mentoring systems must be established, perhaps involving mentor committees made up of teachers and students, such committees to take on the task of helping a student or group of students over some years.
Some attention must be given to the "front door" of K-12. Some children are ready for school at age 3, some not until age 7. More of an emphasis on skills development, including interpersonal and life-managmenet skills, very likely is the best approach to this problem.
A commitment to lifelong learning is to be encouraged in all demographic groups.