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Today's Schools: Like Herding Cattle

Updated: Jun 3

Photo by Lief Gottwald

I don't usually watch education movies. You know, like "To Sir with Love". But there was this comedy about a teacher who on the side became a champion UFC fighter. It had a scene where the teacher was talking to another teacher about how frustrating it was not being able to instruct to every student's educational needs but instead, "It feels like I just herd them like a herd of cattle."

That has been a common complaint for many, many years of our educational system, the grade system of kindergarten through twelfth grade. The idea of moving students as a herd of cattle from one grade to the next until that ultimate of goals, high school graduation.

No account is taken on whether each student or any student for that matter met state education goals. The hope is, if the teacher does not instruct to mastery in one grade, then the next year’s teacher surely will. This goes on until finally the ultimate goal is reached, graduation.

Maricopa Christian Academy works differently. Very differently. All students new to our campus begin where their skills are. A new first grade student tests at a beginning first grade. That is where he begins. A new sixth grade student tests at a second grade level. Then he begins at the second grade level. The seventh grade student at a tenth grade math level begins there.

"What," you say, "isn't it embarrasing for the sixth grade student to be taught with second grade students?" It would be if we practiced such a silly idea. Our students are organized around Academies: Primary 1-3; Elementary 4-6; Middle 7-9; and Senior 10-12. Each academy spends up to three years with the same instructor(s).

We also provide individual goals in all subjects daily for each student. The sixth grade student arriving at a second grade skill level does not have to be labeled or quarintined in a separate room to receive instruction and goals at his instructional level.

This works well for the rest of the Elementary Academy students he attends class with. Those students who have higher skills do not have to be bored with the lower expectations typical in most cattle herd classrooms. No, the student at higher skills is challenged at his level.

"But wait," you say, "is the sixth grade student at second grade skills always going to be behind?" No. We find most students in sixth grade and above are close to being caught up in most subjects in the first year attending here. Reading vocabulary usually tends to take two to three years until state expectations are met.

If you are tired with the herd mentality of most schools, then come give us a visit at Maricopa Christian Academy.

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