Great article, Pam — It reminds me of what Todd Rose says in The End of Average when he points out the difference between “equal access” and “equal fit.” It’s way past time we stopped educating based on a rigid definition of “academic achievement.” And it’s past time we stopped making choices based what is the most efficient or convenient for teachers. As you say, rather than forcing children to “fit” the school, schools should make every effort to fit the needs of each learner. Of course, that first requires admitting and accepting that every learner is different.
Every learner has “special needs.” Every learner is gifted (in some way). I understand the argument that “labeling” supposedly helps teachers address particular cognitive issues, and obviously, some children need very specific approaches. But the minute we attach the word “special” or “disabled” or whatever PC terms are now in use, we throw a spotlight on the negative that blinds teachers to all the strengths a student may have. The teacher you mentioned at the beginning of the article failed to see that a weakness in one area did not signify an ability to understand or think deeply. What a crime! Here’s an article about the danger of labeling learners…and another on what a school without labels might look like.