Why do we separate school kids by age groups?

Every day we work and interact with people of all ages. So why is K-12 is the only place in our lives where we’re divided up by age groups?

Most schools use age-based grade levels because of historical legacy. In the mid-1800s (before we knew a whole lot about human development, learning, and the brain), European thinkers assumed that separating children by age would be the most efficient way to transfer “age-appropriate” knowledge. And the system they built has perpetuated itself since, despite growing evidence that age alone tells us very little about what any given child can do. But alternative learning environments have shown that students grouped by ability were 2.5 times more likely to test high in reading, writing, and math.

Ask Why: Ages is the third in a four-part series, co-produced by ATTN and 180 Studio, that is designed to invite us to reflect on the assumptions we make about the thing we call “school.” When we pause to ask why, we can learn from students and educators who are advancing new and different visions.

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Check out the first two videos in the Ask Why series, Ask Why: Classrooms and Ask Why: Memorization.