Little Things Matter: Equity in Assessment | Haiyun Lu | 8 Min Read

October 6, 2022

It was on a cold April morning, I received an email from my niece’s school informing me that she was on the verge of failing her English class. If no immediate intervention happened, she would not graduate on time.

I was in disbelief: Why was I now hearing about this? Why didn’t I receive any communication on her struggles and poor performance or her English teacher’s unmet expectations? How could she pull herself out of the scorching hot water when it was so near to the end of the game? I knew, mathematically, that if she received one F in her gradebook, it would take at least 90 perfect scores to bring her grades up. What could we do realistically at this point?

After a long conversation with my niece, I learned that it all started with missing a winter break reading without any makeup opportunity. Being an international student who was still struggling in English, she didn’t hear about the winter break reading. She certainly didn’t expect to take a test on the first day after they came back.  

That night, at the dinner table, she told me what happened, and I remembered that she asked me to use Amazon prime to order the book for her. I asked: “You are going to talk to your teacher and ask him for a makeup opportunity, yes?” My niece felt intimidated. Coming from China, students don’t dare question a teacher’s authority. The next morning, when I dropped her off at school, I nudged her again to talk to her English teacher. I explained: “I am a teacher; no teacher wants any student to fail. Don’t be scared; it’s his job to help you grow and succeed!” I assured her that I knew her English teacher’s mindset. She cracked a tiny smile, and I thought the whole issue was about self-advocacy. Therefore, I put everything out of my mind.

It was only on that cold gloomy April evening, I found out that her self-advocacy did nothing for her. It instead put her on the teacher’s blacklist. Her teacher had no “retake” and “remake” policy regardless of any circumstances. I wrote to him immediately and explained that although my niece worked hard, due to her English proficiency level, she didn’t always comprehend what was going on in class. Since her previous English teachers never assigned any winter break readings…

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Haiyun Lu

Haiyun Lu, a Chinese language teacher at the University School of Milwaukee (WI), is also a writer, blogger, trainer, curriculum designer, meditator, and Co-Founder at Ignite Chinese.