An Open Letter to All School Boards in the State of Louisiana
James D. Kirylo
Parents all over the state of Louisiana are choosing to opt out their children from PARCC testing, and there are a variety of reasons for this grassroots movement, some of which I will mention here:
• PARCC is indicative of a deformed system that is led by a multi-billion dollar testing industrial complex in which schools are now testing centers as opposed to learning centers.
• The language of so called "school reform" is shaped by ratings, scores, and inanimate objects as opposed to children, engagement, inspiration, and connection.
• Standardized testing has extraordinarily narrowed the curriculum, steering teachers to become simple functionaries in which virtually the entire academic year is one that is laced with teaching to the tests.
• The arts in all its forms, physical education, the fostering of creativity, and play have greatly been minimized.
• Young children are unnecessarily under great stress, fearful, dealing with bouts of panic, crying spells, apathy, sleeplessness, and depression, playing havoc on their self-worth and motivation.
• Parents are under great suspicion as to where student data will be stored, what it will be used for, who will examine it, and who will have access to it, particularly in the cyber world in which we live.
• The most negatively affected by this system of obsessive standardized testing are the poor.
The above are only some reasons why scores of parents in Louisiana are opting out. In light of this avalanche of parental concern, therefore, it would seem that school boards all over the state would listen and engage in a collaborative conversation with their constituency. However, outside a handful of individual board members, school boards appear to respond with a heavy hand, as what is happening in Tangipahoa Parish.
Instead of considering the value of the voices of parents who desire their children to be opted out, the Tangipahoa Parish School Board has not only summarily dismissed their voices, but has also responded to their concerns in a coercive manner if those parents follow through with opting out. Consider the following:
• Threatening children and schools with zeroes or “Fs” and emphasizing how teacher evaluation will be negatively impacted is a bullying tactic and a use of power that is laced with arrogant ignorance.
• Telling parents who opt out to not send their child to school until 12:30 on the day of the test, and intimidating them on how it may negatively impact the attendance requirement for the school year is retaliatory. Even more insidious, it terribly disables numerous thoughtful parents to act on what they know is right for their children. What are single parents, the working poor, or the ones without transportation supposed to do in light of their very real concerns?
• Principals are mandated to have a conference with each parent, with the sole objective to share the above two points, fostering an atmosphere of fear, shutting down all possibility of critical dialogue, change, or another valuable point of view.
Within our K-12 classrooms all over the state of Louisiana, anti-bullying campaigns, awareness seminars, and simple class discussions examine the destructive nature of bullying and how it leads to no good end. Perhaps now is the time for school board members from around the state to take a seat in one of those classes and learn a thing or two about what it means to collaboratively, cooperatively, and meaningfully work to lift up the entire community.
James D. Kirylo is a professor of education. His latest book is titled A Critical Pedagogy of Resistance. He taught grade school for nearly 20 years, and is a former Louisiana Elementary School Teacher of the Year. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org