State Superintendent: Move Kids Up a Grade Because They’re Ready, Not Just Older

“Some kids may take 12 or 13 years, some kids may take 10 years. Let’s let it be driven by the students.”

Photo Courtesy of Dearborn Public Schools

State Superintendent Brian Whiston says it’s time to re-think how kids move through the school system as they get older.

Whiston spoke with WDET’s Jake Neher at the Mackinac Policy Conference happening this week on Mackinac Island. He says, right now, a kid’s age has more to do with what grade he or she is in than how competent he or she is in any given subject.

“Let’s go to competency-based, where students are going through the system at their pace,” says Whiston. “Once you master it, you move on, instead of this artificial date that I have to be in third grade this year. Let’s let students master their curriculum and then move on.”

“Some kids may take 12 or 13 years, some kids may take 10 years. Let’s let it be driven by the students.”

Whiston admits it’s a tough sell for many parents. But he says he’s in favor of allowing parents to decide whether their child advances through a traditional “pathway” or a competency-based system.

The state’s school chief also talks about his concerns regarding President Trump’s proposed budget and how it might affect public schools, as well as his stance on school vouchers.

Click on the audio player above to hear the full conversation.


  • Jake Neher
    Jake Neher is senior producer for Detroit Today and host of MichMash for 101.9 WDET. He previously reported on the Michigan Legislature for the Michigan Public Radio Network.