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James Kirylo is a professor of teaching and learning at Southeastern Louisiana University. His son opted out of testing last year. And he will opt out again this year. He went to his local school board to tell them his reasons. He did it twice.
When No Child Left Behind was passed, we were told that it would raise achievement so high that no child would be left behind. That was not true.
There you have it—fourteen years later since NCLB was introduced—standardized tests, as they are currently administered, interpreted, and used in school communities across the country, do not work, have not worked, and will not work as they were presumably intended. In fact, the adverse effects of them are overwhelming. Nevertheless, we continue to use them like a bad drug to which the desperate addict keeps crawling back.
And like the addict who is in need of dire help, until there is admittance to the problem, school systems will continue down this addictive path of testing until that type of assessment system is recognized as inherently harmful. Until then, therefore, parents have only one option to not enable the addiction to testing: opt-out.
He is also outraged by the school grades that the state slaps on every school. As it happens, his children’s school does not have a high grade. Kirylo knows the letter grade is meaningless:
My two children attend a school that has a state report card grade that has been hovering between a D and C– hardly a glaring narrative. What am I thinking by sending my sons to just a slightly-below-average school– and, by implication, one that is populated by slightly-below average teachers and administrators, only to be surrounded by slightly-below average children? But indeed, that is the warped message corporate reformers want to convey.
In other words, this objectification of children and those who work in public schools—which is particularly heightened when my children’s school is only slightly above the prospect of receiving even more threats to intensify the obsession on everything testing—ultimately works to close those schools. In short, corporate reform operates under the framework of threats, coercion, shaming, and blaming, and it has taken us nowhere.
What does matter is a strong public education system that is intentionally mindful of the common good. This is done through collaboration, cooperation, and the cultivation of meaningful relationships, which is attentive to building up the community, a state, a nation–all of which is filtered through the fostering of developmentally appropriate practices–and through the professionalization of teaching.
To be sure, the assistant principal who every morning greets my two boys with a welcoming smile at carpool drop-off and clearly demonstrates great care is an “A” person; the teachers who work hard, communicate well, and have the best interests of my children’s educational growth are “A” people; the principal who I had the fortune to teach in graduate school is an “A” administrator who is diligently working to push the school forward; and, finally the over 1000 children who attend my sons’ school are “A” human beings, relying on the adults to cultivate a schooling environment that works to maximize their opportunities.
We all should have no patience with so-called school report grades that are misleading and by which the public is being erroneously manipulated. Thus, the only option I see if things don’t change is to opt-out.