- The UCLA Graduate School of Education's Rebecca Alber writes for Edutopia that operating classrooms like a meritocracy is disadvantageous to students, as viewing students based on test results and grades does little to benefit their actual learning.
- Alber suggests that educators look beyond struggling students' performance and avoid labels that may stigmatize, opting instead to identify where they can contribute meaningfully, meeting them at their level of understanding, and helping them find a pathway to progress.
- An "abundance approach," she suggests, identifies and builds strengths rather than focusing on areas where a student is behind, allowing the student to feel seen and supported while providing positive reinforcement for improvement.
As a saying commonly attributed to Albert Einstein goes, "Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid." So while a student may not be a good test-taker or might not learn well in certain formats or environments, they should never be considered a failure.
In a perfect world, it would be possible for every school to identify students' strengths and guide them to a pathway that accentuates those to the benefit of areas where they might lag. But the reality is that funding and resources for many schools aren't typically at levels that would allow that level of personalization.
Administrators, however, can work with educators to ensure that students in danger of falling through the cracks are served to the best of a school's abilities. In some cases, this may mean working with community organizations to forge partnerships that can support expanded programming to meet those students' interests and re-engage them. These partnerships can also provide mentors who help guide students in a variety of ways. Ultimately, the right learning opportunity at the right time can make a world of difference in a student's life.