In The 4th Grade, A Girl Received 'Minimally Proficient' On A Test For Writing — Now She's A Successful Published Author

She grew up to be a bestselling author, despite her test scores. Now, she's pointing out how formal education gets things wrong.

Alex Penfold author Instagram / Twitter / Alex Penfold Books

Author and literary agent Alexandra Penfold can speak firsthand on how standardized testing shouldn’t define young students.

One of her tweets from July 2018 about academic performance is making its rounds online, proving that test scores don’t dictate someone’s future.

In the 4th grade, Alex Penfold received a score of ‘minimally proficient’ on a standardized writing test.

Now, Penfold is a New York Times bestselling author. 


Penfold’s tweet explains that she was sorting through papers her mother had saved from her childhood. She shared her 4th-grade self-evaluation alongside her 4th-grade state test score. The 8-year-old version of Penfold stated, "I love to write and I hope to become an author someday."

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Penfold scored 4 out of 8 points for her Holistic Writing Score in the 4th grade. The test declares that 7 out of 8 points is the goal for students to reach; a 4 out of 8 is defined as the “remedial standard.”


Her self-evaluation expressed her love for writing, despite standardized test scores stating, "this student is minimally proficient in writing."

Penfold ended her now-viral tweet with the hashtag #MoreThanATest. The tweet garnered over 7,000 likes and over 2,000 retweets, showing just how impactful people found Penfold’s message of determination.

Penfold followed up her initial tweet by responding to a follower in the comment section, reiterating her message that students amount to more than their test scores.

She wrote, “in 6th grade, I was placed in ‘average’ reading and English (Maybe as a result of this test? Who knows?) Those were my favorite subjects; it broke my heart. I worked hard to prove I could do “advanced” work and my teachers moved me up next year. Tell your kid to never give up.”


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She stated that 'it’s so important to not let testing destroy a love of learning or define a student.'

Penfold has published 6 books with Random House, including a children’s book titled "All Are Welcome," which the New York Times described as a “celebration of kindness, inclusivity, and diversity at a school.”

In August 2018, Penfold’s book hit number 2 on the New York Times list of Children’s Bestsellers.

That she reached her dream of becoming an author despite her low standardized test scores is a sweet and inspiring story, but it holds more weight than just that.


It also shows that young students rely on more than test scores to determine their future successes. In a country that puts undue weight on standardized test scores, it’s essential to remember that kids hold more value than whatever number their scores are.

In 2016, the National Education Association completed a study in which they found that 70% of educators believed that state assessment testing wasn’t developmentally appropriate.

The NEA study stated, “standardized tests based on a narrowly prescribed curriculum and linked to specific grade levels are not a good way to judge student or teacher success.”


Penfold’s trajectory offers hope to hard-working teachers and students who are struggling. One such teacher commented on Penfold’s post, saying, “I look at the beautiful faces I teach and get overwhelmed when testing time comes because they deserve so much more than being reduced to a magic number.”

Penfold responded, “Thank you for being a teacher that sees your students for everything they are and everything they can be.”

Teachers are one of our most valuable resources — those that encouraged Penfold despite her low test scores helped her to live out her childhood dream, which is a cause for celebration on all fronts.

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Alexandra Blogier is a writer on YourTango's news and entertainment team. She covers celebrity gossip, pop culture analysis and all things to do with the entertainment industry.