Sunday, May 7, 2017

Standardized Testing, Educational Malpractice, and the Police Arrival by James D. Kirylo



I am writing this piece in a momentary state of shock, from an I-can’t-believe-what-I just-experienced place. Let me explain.

For the last two years in Louisiana, my wife and I have opted out our oldest child from participating in the standardized testing madness. Now that we have moved to South Carolina, we are doing the same, but this time for both of our children, who happen to be in the third and fifth grades.

I not only wrote the principal and assistant principal of my intent to opt out, but I also wrote officials at the state department of my objection, providing research, reasons, and court cases for my resistance to testing.

In addition to the above, I personally spoke to the principal and assistant principal about my objections prior to testing, and frankly, they agreed.

I was given the distinct impression that accommodations would be provided for my two children to opt out.

Yet, on the morning of the first test for my fifth grader, I received a call from the school, from a Dr. Chief Instructional Officer (I will withhold the name) from the Lexington 2 SC school system, informing me that my son was placed in the classroom, and that he was given the standardized test. I was shocked, to say the least.

First, I never spoke to this Dr. Chief Instructional Officer before. But she certainly let me know in a quick second that she was “Dr. Important” from the school system.

Second, I expressed my great displeasure, and said it was completely inappropriate for my son to be placed in the class, especially after I was given every indication by the school that accommodations would be made.

Third, I said I was on my way to the school to talk further about the situation.

When I arrived at the school, I saw two police patrol cars in front.

They were there for me.

Two uniformed police officers hovered around the office area, evidently thinking that I was a threat simply because I openly expressed my displeasure at the school for offering indications that the administration would honor my desire to opt my children out of testing and then violating those indications; for the additional displeasure that my son was engaged in an inappropriate assessment practice; and, for my profound displeasure that Dr. Chief Instructional Officer evidently side-stepped the principal and made it her place to dictate that my son—whom she does not know—go to his class where the test was being administered.

It was Dr. Chief Instructional Officer who called the police, and it was she who made all of these decisions before informing me, the parent.

So, as I was talking to Dr. Chief Instructional Officer, a Mr. Director of Testing, Research, and Accountability (I will withhold his name, too) from the Lexington 2 SC School System came in to talk with me, as well.

Of course, the police hovered around.

With the “big guns” (please excuse the expression) being brought in from the school district office, and with the police presence, I would not be telling the truth if I did not say I was a little intimidated. Nevertheless, I didn’t mince words in discussing my shock at the educational malpractice that I was witnessing, looking at the principal and saying with a surreal sensation, “Why in the heck are the police here?” The principal appeared sheepish, even seemed embarrassed, knowing that I have been a great supporter of the school, the administration, and teachers.

I asked Dr. Chief Instructional Officer and Mr. Director of Testing, Research, and Accountability why they waited until the morning of the tests to talk to me.

I also asked why they didn’t come to speak to me prior to testing.

Unbeknownst to me, Dr. Chief Instructional Officer and Mr. Director of Testing, Research, and Accountability knew I was opting out my two children days before the test, but they did not make any effort to contact me. Instead, they made it their business to contact me after my son was refused accommodations and forced into the class where the fifth graders were being tested.

At best, I call that awful leadership and arrogance of power; at worst, bullying and willful intimidation.

I went on saying to Dr. Chief Instructional Officer and Mr. Director of Testing, Research, and Accountability that for them to arbitrarily make a decision to place my child in that testing environment despite my wishes–and despite my respectfully contacting the principal and the school system about my intent– despite letting them know that there are pockets of parents all over the state of SC opting out– and despite the assistant principal’s giving me every indication that accommodations would be made– was simply shocking.

As I further expressed my concerns about the problems with standardized testing, their responses were robotic, Stepford-Wives-like, with their favorite line being, “We are simply following what the state department tells us to.”

When one repeatedly hears the mantra “I am just following…” in the course of a single conversation as a response or an excuse for why one does what one does, there is no more need for talking.

The conversation ended.

The police left.

As a parent, community member, and academic, I am as involved as I can be, and privileged to have had a good education. The result is that I have a little agency, despite a system that aims to silence me, and countless others like myself.

But, my goodness, the numerous parents of school-aged children whose voices have been marginalized, whose lives are being poisoned by a system that will only alienate them more—those I truly worry about. Moreover, what happened to the refrain of “parental rights, parental choice, and parents know more about their children than schools”? Does parental choice stop with standardized testing? Evidently so in South Carolina.

We have more work to do to stop this testing madness.

But all is not lost.

Since the school provided no accommodations for my son despite indications they would, when he was administered the test, my son, in turn, accommodated the system—respectfully and independently on his own—by not taking the test.

The testing teacher said that he must put his name on the test; so, he did. And he chose to leave the silly bubbles blank.

While others were testing, he simply did something more worthwhile, like reading and spending time to think.

What a novel idea.

James D. Kirylo is associate professor at the University of South Carolina. His latest book is titled Teaching with Purpose: An Inquiry into the Who, Why, and How We Teach (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016). Kirylo can be reached at jkirylo@ yahoo.com

"in the final analysis, the power of God is God" gustavo gutiƩrrez

6 comments:

  1. Well done, Kiddo. Very well done. That's the kind of problem solving that tests done measure but that serves one well in life.

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  2. Don't measure

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  3. The way the system handled this is infuriating, but your son handled it beautifully! Great job for respectfully taking stand in what was probably a difficult situation.

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  4. This is why public education must be replaced by charters and choice.

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  5. Cryssie BreitbachMay 9, 2017 at 2:20 PM

    1st... WTG to your kiddo. I am in awe of him refusing to be intimidated into taking the test! 2nd, thank you for showing parents how to handle a VERY stressful situations!

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  6. The author of this blog is really a badass. Or he may be considered a badass by his fellow teachers his bosses at the school administration. I, however, consider the author to be a very smart person. The person who has such smart insights and opinions on the things happening at school must have understood the main goal of education. Is it not the testing that will make the students educated, it is an online case study writing at EssayOnlineStore that they must be taught to do in order to succeed in real life.

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