Paul Burke's ''U.S. Students: The Myth of Massive Failure'' {op-ed, Aug. 28} was a well written and accurate piece about a problem that researchers and politicians have by far overplayed, but I feel that Mr. Burke failed to mention the true problem. Researchers enjoy saying that American students' "failure'' is caused only by the students' ignorance. The real problem -- the origin of this ''massive ignorance'' -- is a direct result of two things. The first is parents not playing a large enough role in their child's education.

A popular -- but unfortunately accurate -- scenario depicts a child asking his father for a little help with his algebra, but the father replies, ''Not now son, I'm watching the Redskins game.'' This may seem a little too stereotypical, but it happens time and time again, and it's not always a football game that interferes. Maybe the parent is too "exhausted,'' or has other "more important'' things to take care of.

The second problem is even more directly linked to this ''massive ignorance": it's the educational system itself -- the lack of qualified and enthusiastic teachers. I believe that some of America's teachers don't really enjoy their work, which directly results in the loss of opportunities for students to enjoy what they are learning. Also many students seek extra help with their schoolwork, but what seems to occur more and more is that teachers are just not available.

Something must be done about American students' so-called massive ignorance, but blaming the students is not the solution. For the true problems to be correctly dealt with, it will take a little extra time and effort from parents and a few changes within the educational system. DAVID HISLE Bethesda

Paul Burke resorts to sophistry in contending that U.S. students on the whole are not failing in the basics. His conclusions and timing are especially ironic in light of the Aug. 28 news story that reports that recent scholastic test scores show another decline in verbal skills. In math, students' scores have shown no increase in four years despite the increased attention to the subject by most schools.

One positive sign is that women and certain ethnic minorities posted slight gains in math test scores. But verbally, these groups declined along with the rest of the student population nationwide.

As a former teacher, I'd be willing to bet that Mr. Burke rarely, if ever, spends any real time in the classroom. It's only in these trenches that substantiated observation takes place and only here that true conclusions can be obtained. Most teachers openly admit the decline of the student and point to economic and social factors as the causes. Be that as it may, I'd be more inclined to believe a teacher's opinion than that of an independent education researcher.

JEFF LEWIS Silver Spring