Research: Most children are placed in classrooms based solely upon their birth date. Forgotten is the fact that brain function is highly individualized, developing at different times and rates for every individual. Margaret Semrud-Clikeman of the University of Minnesota warns that instruction that is above or below the maturity level of a child’s brain is inappropriate and can lead to behavior problems. Even worse, it can also lead to the misidentification of learning challenges and put a child on the path for academic failure. She argues that being aware of these developmental differences is important so teachers can both adequately challenge and nurture their students to promote academic growth.
Practice: We base our practices on what’s developmentally appropriate for each individual child. We have flexibility in determining which grade, campus, courses, and types of instruction a child receives. We can accommodate a variety of educational paths that allow for variations in brain maturity and developmental readiness, including later school starts in the primary years (some are ready at 5, others when they’re 7), early/late placement in high school courses, and postgraduate years for students who need a little more time before college. This way, we ensure that every child’s path is tailored to their own personal development.