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[Susan notes: This letter asks a crucial question. We can hope that a New York Times education writer will follow it up.]

Submitted to New York Times but not published
03/29/2004

To the editor





It would seem from her column that Marlene Heath's heart is in the right place. She wants the students at her school to be successful. She touts retention as the cure for kids who aren't meeting "grade level standards." I say it's the schools not meeting the needs of their students. As Susan Ohanian points out in her book, One Size Fits Few: The Folly of Educational Standards, it is the students who are being made to fit an arbitrary standard.



If the little girl in Ms. Heath's classroom couldn't read, it was not the girl who was defective. It is/was the system that was failing to find the best way to teach her. It was likely a lack of enough books and enough time to read them. It was likely that her classes were too large. It was likely that she needed more real-life experiences so she could bring some

background knowledge to her reading. It was likely that she was perfectly okay.



Clearly, she was passed along too often without appropriate schooling. But holding her back for more of the same doubtless didn't help her, either.



Does anyone know if she made it through high school?



Nancy Barth


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