Assessment Letter to the Editor

It’s Not a Failure When Students Learn Differently

May 13, 2013 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

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?

Cap Lee

Burnsville, N.C.

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


Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Assessment Cardona Says Standardized Tests Haven't Always Met the Mark, Offers New Flexibility
The U.S. Department of Education is seeking to reinvigorate a little-used pilot program to create new types of assessments.
7 min read
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in his office at the Department of Education on Sept. 20, 2023 in Washington.
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in his office at the Department of Education on Sept. 20, 2023 in Washington.
Mark Schiefelbein/AP
Assessment Opinion The 4 Common Myths About Grading Reform, Debunked
Grading reformers and their critics all have the same goal: grades that truly reflect student learning. Here’s how we move forward.
Sarah Ruth Morris & Matt Townsley
5 min read
Venn diagram over a macro shot of A- on white results sheet. Extremely shallow focus. Letter grades are highlighted.
E+/Getty + Vanessa Solis/Education Week
Assessment If ChatGPT Can Write Virtually Anything, What Should a National Writing Exam Test?
That's a question the board that oversees the National Assessment of Educational Progress is confronting amid AI's rapid ascendance.
6 min read
Image of a person using a computer, with glasses, papers, and pencil on the desk too.
Assessment From Our Research Center Few Educators Say A-F and Numeric Grades Offer 'Very Effective' Feedback for Students
Fewer than 1 in 6 educators—13 percent— say that A through F or numeric grades are a “very effective way” to give feedback to students.
3 min read
Cropped image of teacher standing in front of a blurred classroom of students with test results in hand showing the letter A in red.