Starting a School, Part I

Assessment, Learning

Thanks to the vision of the remarkable people at Center for Inspired Teaching, I’m part of an initial working group tasked with bringing a new school to life. And, after a three-hour meeting yesterday, I’m struck by the totality of decisions to make — from the sacred (hiring the principal and staff, designing the curriculum, etc.) to the profane (choosing a food vendor, picking office furniture, etc.).
What’s most exciting to me is the chance to help create the central frame on which the future faculty will build — the vision, the mission, the curriculum, and the developmental benchmarks. Already the process is uncovering the core questions that need to be asked in order to arrive at the optimal frame — “What do we want a graduate of our school to know and be able to do?” “What kind of a person do we want a graduate of our school to be?” “How will we identify our developmental benchmarks?” What will be the interdisciplinary elements of the curriculum?” “To what do we owe our fidelity?”
When you have the opportunity to ask these questions before anything has been established, I’m realizing that you must immediately wrestle with a vital threshold decision — When it comes to identifying our developmental benchmarks, will our school be time-based (e.g., grades, annual progression, etc.) or competency-based (e.g., you don’t progress until you’ve demonstrated mastery of what you need to know to move on)?
So here’s my question for you to consider — Is there ANY reason to maintain a time-based system of schooling, other than the fact it makes it easier to fit into the existing system?