Federal Letter to the Editor

Individualizing Schools Is Path to Real Learning

July 09, 2013 1 min read
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To the Editor:

I write in regard to the blog post “Senate Democrats to Unveil NCLB Reauthorization Bill” (Politics K-12, edweek.org, June 4, 2013). Again we see the attempt to “tweak” the failed status quo.

The reality is that it can’t be tweaked because the problem is systemic. The efforts of the U.S. Senate are still based on the 18th-century education system whose purpose was defined by Thomas Jefferson as raking a few “geniuses” from the “rubbish.”

A standardized test is not an indicator of academic achievement. It is an indicator of testing achievement, a completely different mindset than what is needed to determine real learning. The fundamental purpose of education is for students to graduate from school being able to do something, not say they can do something.

“Proficiency” is scoring at the same range on an artificial test at the same time as everyone else. With a range of testing skills and abilities, beginning with students with the most severe cognitive disabilities across the spectrum to those “book-learned” kids, and recognizing that obstacles like childhood stress truly do slow the brain, how could anyone ever think that everyone would be at the same place at the same time? Unless, of course, we put the low-scoring students into the streets.

The only solution is to develop individualized schools, taking kids from where they are, not from where we wish they were, and teaching kids in the way of the real world, not in an artificial testing world. Can this really be done?

Of course it can: We did it at my former school, the Village School in Milwaukee, in 1995.

Cap Lee

Burnsville, N.C.

The writer is a retired teacher and principal.

A version of this article appeared in the July 11, 2013 edition of Education Week as Individualizing Schools Is Path to Real Learning


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