“I don’t want to subject my son to an environment of testing that I know has nothing to do with learning.”
So says James Kirylo, father of Antonio, a third-grader attending public school in Tangipahoa Parish. Kirylo is also a professor of education at Southeastern Louisiana University, and is one of dozens of parents around the state who are opting their children out of standardized testing this spring. Kirylo admits his reason is different than most.
“My issue is not Common Core,” he says unequivocally, though he does acknowledge, “Common Core is certainly worthy of a debate in terms of its merit, in terms of how it’s impacting parents, students and teachers.”
Kirylo taught elementary school for nearly two decades, and now teaches teachers-to-be. He says he doesn’t want his son thinking that education is only about passing an annual test. Kirylo is fed up with Louisiana’s “culture of testing”, noting that it has failed to improve education, based on annual Education Week rankings.
“The state of Louisiana, on k-12 achievement, received a D-minus, and we have been hovering around that score every year for the last 20 years,” Kirylo observes. “And every year we respond by saying, ‘We need to better prepare them for the test’.
“There is a definition of insanity: if you keep doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”
Dr. Kirylo says he has worked closely with Tangipahoa public schools for the past dozen years, and felt comfortable addressing the school board a couple of weeks ago, explaining why he was opting Antonio out. It was not well-received.
“The school board president was quick to take to Facebook, to the media, and essentially marginalize everything I said,” he says.
Tangipahoa School Board president Brett Duncan wrote a scathing letter to the local newspaper, defending testing. Duncan, it should be noted, is also chairman of the state Department of Education’s Accountability Commission. And while Kirylo says other school board members were supportive of his position, the board as a whole has not joined the 14 other school districts that are requesting state waivers for students who are opting out.
Kirylo says he is also upset that state Superintendent of Education John White is threatening zeroes for students, teachers and schools where parents are opting their kids out.
“If I hear more about ratings and scores — that’s a red flag for me,” Kirylo says of White’s stance on the issue. “Because I should be hearing about children, creativity, engagement. I should hear about connection. I should hear about inspiration.”
Gov. Bobby Jindal has issued an executive order, directing the Dept. of Education to accommodate those who opt out. BESE, which meets on March 5, will discuss the opt-out requests.