To the Editor:
The Commentary feature “Where Are We Now?” (April 24, 2013), with its compilation of data marking the 30th anniversary of A Nation at Risk, illustrates that the state of educational assessment is pretty much irrelevant drivel, as there seems to be no information indicating how many individual students made significant gains. Averages don’t tell us much because not everyone is included—for example, the large number of urban dropouts and those manipulated into not taking the test if they are low scorers.
Until we learn that kids blossom at different rates and develop a system that does not punish them into oblivion if they aren’t the same at the same moment in time, we will always fail. Add to that the artificial nature of tests, both standardized and in the classroom, and we have a continuing pattern of failure.
It’s not when kids learn that is important, it’s that they learn—be it faster, on the norm, or slower. They are not robots, and it is immoral to fail kids because they don’t learn fast enough to suit our elitist backsides.
Teachers, the unions, administrators, and advocates of standardized nonsense are all missing the boat. When will we ever learn?
The writer is a retired teacher and principal.
A version of this article appeared in the May 15, 2013 edition of Education Week as It’s Not a Failure When Students Learn Differently