Mom in Tears over Letter Teacher Wrote about Autistic Son Who Failed Exam


The benefits of standardized testing have become somewhat of a hot topic in school systems. While these tests may succeed on one level, the ways that they do not seem to be ever-growing.

Claims against the form of testing have stated through years of research that “high-stakes standardized test scores are not reliable or valid.”

Among the claims against this kind of testing include that they can’t help teachers adapt learner differences and can “create unnecessary stress and negative attitudes toward schooling.”

Overall, these tests have been argued to be flawed and limiting in terms of measuring students intelligence, and many teachers agree.

One teacher in particular, Ruth Clarkson, knows the tests are important but believes that they can measure only a small fraction of her students and their abilities.

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Clarkson is a teacher at Lansbury Bridge School and Sports College, a school for children with special needs.

After one of her students, 11-year-old Ben Twist, took England’s national curriculum assessment known as the SATS, Clarkson wrote him a letter to tell him that the tests did not define him.

Ben was diagnosed with autism at 5 years old. She congratulated him on his “attitude and success” in taking the exams, a huge achievement for the boy.

“A very important piece of information I want you to understand is that these tests only measure a little bit of you and your abilities,” the teacher wrote.

“They are important and you have done so well but Ben Twist is made up of many other skills and talents that we at Lansbury Bridge see and measure in other ways.”

The letter continued as Clarkson listed the many talents Ben could be proud of that the test could not measure.

They included things like his artistic talents, his ability to work with others, and his ability to self-evaluate.

“We are so pleased that all of these different talents and abilities make you the special person you are and these are all of the things we measure to reassure us that you are always making progress and continuing to develop as a lovely bright young man,” the note ended. “Well done Ben, we are very proud of you.”

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Ben’s mom, Gail, said she couldn’t keep back the tears before she finished reading the letter.

“Ben worked so hard and sitting the tests was a massive achievement,” Gail said. “We knew the results were coming but to get a letter like that — I got part-way through it and I burst into tears.”

“He’s such a sensitive and loving child and he’s got an amazing sense of humor – it’s amazing that the school are able to recognize that our children have other qualities than what they are tested on,” she said.

Ben was also excited to hear that his teachers thought so highly of him. His mom said “he was so surprised and said how ‘awesome’ it was and couldn’t believe they really thought that about him.”

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Liz was a senior story editor for The Western Journal.
Liz was a senior story editor for The Western Journal.
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