Why My Son will Opt Out of PARCC

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By Dr. James D. Kirylo, Professor of Education

Why My Son will Opt Out of PARCC

(Enough: Stand Up, Speak Out, and Opt Out)

Delivered on Feb. 5, 2015, Amite, La., USA



While I am a professor of education, I don’t come here to speak in that official capacity, but, rather, as a parent with two children attending a public school in the state of Louisiana.


The theme of my remarks is related to Common Core State Standards (CCSS), Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for Colleges and Careers (PARCC) testing, and standardized testing in general, obviously politically charged interrelated topics.


But, then again, education is political at its core, no more exemplified when Governor Jindal was for Common Core before he was against it, and not to be outdone, Senator Vitter was against it, before he was for it, to be back against it.  And, now more recently, the Governor and the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE), headed by Chas Roemer, are in a cat fight regarding PARCC testing, with many others now jumping into the fray.


And so, of course, it should not be any great wonder that so many people around the state are scratching their collective heads regarding Common Core and PARCC, no more tangibly experienced by teachers, felt by the parents, and imposed on our children.


I think it is fair to say Common Core should be taken with a relative grain of salt simply because some of it just makes no doggone sense.  For example, it is not uncommon my Antonio, a third grader, will ask me how to do a particular homework math problem, and I will have no earthly idea how to do it.  So I respond to him, son, please explain to your teacher that your daddy doesn’t know how to do this one.   And, I jokingly suggest to my wife that his teacher probably doesn’t know how to do it either that is why she sends it home to see if the parents can figure this thing out.  Because it makes no doggone sense to her either.  And so it goes.


To the central point of what I want to share, which is to let this board know that my son will be opting out of PARCC testing.  There are many reasons for this decision, some of which I will communicate here.


Wasn’t it Mr. John White, the unqualified Louisiana Superintendent of Education, who said on more than one occasion that parents know what is best for their children?  Well, I can unequivocally tell you that opting out my child from PARCC is best for him.  I encourage other parents to do the same. And, parents, don’t let anyone coercively tell you different, with a bullying tactic how opting out will negatively impact schools’/teachers’ scores.  You have the right to opt out.  And opting out of PARCC does not mean one is agreeing to take some other replacement standardized test.


The issue for me here is not only the PARCC assessment tool, which is symptomatic of a warped system, but, rather, the critical concern is also the entire testing industrial complex that is poisoning our schools.  There are those who claim these standardized tests as they are currently being used are what strengthen our accountability system. But, I say that is misguided thinking coming from a bully pulpit that is using these tests in an effort to shamelessly control schools, teachers, parents, children, and entire communities.


My son is very conscientious child, and his teacher recently shared with me that he likes to think through things, loves to read, and is doing well.  That brings this father much joy that what he is doing at school is the same what does at home. As I have told my two young boys, my other one, Alexander, who is in first grade, I have no interest in them focusing on getting an A.  They don’t need that artificial burden.

Rather, what I am interested in is that they try their best, faithfully apply themselves, listen to the teacher, and question the teacher.  There are two principal tasks of the teacher.  First, a teacher must work diligently to tap into the natural curiosities a child brings to the class.  Second, and perhaps most importantly, a central goal of the teacher is to inspire.  Why?  Because inspiration moves us.  Inspiration is the fuel that feeds the learner to fall in love with learning. If and when a teacher does that, the world is a child’s oyster.


As I understand it, part I of PARCC is scheduled to take place March 16-20.  During the course of the week, eight year old children will endure over 6 hours of testing.  But of course, that is not enough of testing.  Enter in Part II of PARCC, which will take place May 4-6 in which students will endure another 3 hours and 30 minutes of testing.


That is not to mention, that between that time ILeap will occur on April 14 and 15, where these same eight year old children will yet endure another 2 hours and 45 minutes of testing.  And let’s not forget the Mock Testing that is to occur.  Add up all those hours, and that comes to over 11 hours of testing.  In a span of three months, an 8 year old will spend more hours subjected to standardized testing, which translates more than what I withstood throughout my entire K-12 schooling experience.


Of course, this does not include the months of testing practice, testing talk, and as we get closer to testing days we will have balloon send offs, pep rallies, and the like.   These dog and pony shows are really not for students, but for the adults involved in the system who are under tremendous pressure, running on scared on how they will be judged by this perverted system.  Perhaps, as the thinking goes, if we have a pep rally, the child will be “motivated” to do well on the test, and then our school will get a good grade.  After all isn’t education all about ratings, scores, and percentages.


But, it doesn’t stop there. We tell children to get enough sleep, eat right, and frighten the daylights out of them on how important these tests are.  What I speak is not hyperbole; this is reality.


As a result of this fabricated environment, 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, ultimately equating that schooling is simply about passing a test, leading some to even drop out.  And the most affected are the poor, the ones without a voice.  Make no mistake, these created conditions fall right in the lap of policy makers, many of whom chief among them sit on BESE, and enforced by the school board such as this one, and applauded by many others holding public office.


Evidently, BESE has become so blind to the poison they are injecting into our youth that they don’t even see our children anymore.  Peter Sacks is spot on in his brilliant book, Standardized Minds (1999), “The accountability crusade has been dramatic and emotionally wrenching for many, and yet it operates with utter, bureaucratic coldness” (p.68)…. Regarding her son’s achievement on a standardized test, one parent put it this way: “Teachers were mesmerized by the numbers…They were in awe of him.  Because he did so well on the test, in a way they didn’t see him. They saw him as his test scores” (p. 65).


For the last approximate 20 years, Education Week, publishes an annual Quality Counts State by State Report Card.  What did Louisiana receive this year on K-12 Achievement?  D- (49th in the nation).  Every year for the past near two decades, the state of Louisiana has been hovering in that score range.  And every year, we then predictably respond with more of the same rhetoric that centers around preparing for standardized tests.  Except each year it becomes more heightened, more emphasized, more high stakes, and a whole lot sicker.


This is madness.  I imagine all of us are familiar with the definition of insanity, which is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results.  This definition is credited to Albert Einstein, who, by the way, would have been labeled a failure in an era of high stakes testing.


And speaking of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), and now moving into Race to the Top Program, which is linked to Common Core and PARCC, Dr. Diane Ravitch, one of the most respected education scholars in the nation, puts it this way, “After 13 years of federally mandated annual testing, how could anyone still believe that testing will improve instruction and close achievement gaps?”   (http://dianeravitch.net/2015/01/12/why-did-civil-rights-groups-demand-standardized-testing/)


Well, I don’t, Dr. Ravitch.  Excellent teachers, don’t.  A plethora of concerned parents, don’t. And, high achieving countries, don’t.   But, obviously, Dr. Ravitch, it appears that many policymakers in the state of Louisiana still do.


Let’s be clear, standardized testing has extraordinarily narrowed the curriculum, even has dumbed it down, impelling teachers to simply focus on prescribed areas of certain disciplines that will be tested.  As a consequence, the arts in all its forms have greatly been deprived; the same for physical education; social studies and the sciences have received less attention; and, particularly for the very young, the idea of play and recess has been dismissed as frivolous.  Clearly, the joy of learning is being systematically sucked out of curious children in a schooling environment that is riddled with fear (Solley, 2007).


Of course, assessment has its place in school.  That is not being questioned here.  And the ultimate goal of assessment is to improve teaching and learning.   But, when it comes to our obsession with standardized tests, they have not only harmed quality teaching and meaningful learning, but also have chased good teachers away.


This is not to mention, the costs of them, so much so that the standardized testing industrial complex is a multi-billion dollar enterprise.  We often hear that school systems are short of monies.  My response to that is, no; they are short of priorities in which many dollars, much time, and much energy places its trust in the testing industry.


In the final analysis, it is no wonder, therefore, that numerous professional organizations, educators, and researchers from all over the world have admonished such a system.  But more importantly, a sleeping giant called parents are waking up to this madness, and proclaiming, “Enough!”  And that is why I am here.


Many will say, okay, what is the solution.  I understand that.  And there is no one solution, no one silver bullet, but collectively there are alternatives.  However, before talking solutions, we need to be sure that there is an awareness of a problem.


Particularly among many in policy making positions, it appears that awareness is as dim as a small pen flashlight running on a weak battery.  Many don’t see the problem.  One can’t work on solutions, until awareness is more forcefully illuminated.  And once that happens, the lighted path toward solutions will be guided by what can be.


In the end, our current system fundamentally functions by promoting competition, which inherently fosters a system of winners and losers, a system in which some are in and some are out.  This kind of system is perpetual.


However, on the other hand, I don’t view a system of schooling as one that is steered by competition; rather, I view schooling as an endeavor in which learning is the focal point, in which cooperation and collaboration is the anchor, and in which the entire community works in concert to transform its citizenry.


In closing, it is for these reasons and others my son will be opting out of this testing madness.  Parents all over the country are opting out, including a growing number in Louisiana.  In addition, teachers all over the country are also joining forces, and saying enough and are refusing to administer something they know is developmentally inappropriate.


I strongly urge parents all over this parish to join me, to join the chorus of parents around this state, and proclaim enough, and opt out.  I urge my colleagues at Southeastern Louisiana University, Louisiana State University, and other universities to speak out more forcefully, and say enough.


As I see it, we have two choices here: We can either continue to submit to the narrative of an unqualified state superintendent, a power hungry Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE), and an out of control testing industry, all of which is backed by corporate greed, in an effort that arrogantly promotes a system that is poisoning our youth….or….We can listen to the voices of scholars who have conducted thoughtful research, consider the position statements of numerous educational organizations, listen to the voices of thousands of teachers, and pay attention to the crying out of our youngsters, all of whom are saying enough, urging a different direction…I choose the latter every single time.   Thank you.



Sacks, P. (1999). Standardized minds. Cambridge, MA: Perseus Publishing.

Solley, B. A. (2007). On standardized testing: An ACEI position paper. Childhood Education, 84(1), 31-37.


Dayne Sherman has a new Louisiana novel titled Zion, a $4.99 ebook. Signed first editions available from the author.

Dayne Sherman, Writer & Speaker

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35 Responses

  1. Jennifer Guillory

    I retired last year because of the over testing of students. I love teaching and miss the classroom EVERY day. I was embarrassed and disheartened to administer all the tests. I was apologizing to my students by January, yet still encouraging them to do their best and keeping a positive environment. They had many real questions that I had trouble answering. Middle schoolers are a tough audience, mine were no different. I looked at an organizational chart for 7th graders last week, and counted 41 standardized tests BEFORE students even get to PARCC. I think this year, parents are beginning to understand the magnitude and overuse of data collection. Parents are the ones who can make the change. Teachers, back them up. Write your local board members and BESE board. There is power in numbers and we need to present a unified front.

  2. Carol Thornton

    I am a third grade teacher and I so agree with this article! I feel guilty every day about doing nothing but pushing the skills down the students’ throats to the detriment of real spontaneous learning. The love of teaching is gone and the love of learning is gone. It’s so sad. I’m sending my grandchild to a private school for the rest of her school career. She will be in fifth next year. I am desperately looking for a job in a private school too. Her mom is also opting her out of the testing!

    • Carol, I understand exactly how you feel! I’m also a 3rd grade teacher, and it sickens me to see what’s happening to our education system. We are not teaching these children life skills, we are teaching a test…one stupid, inappropriate test! I hate it! I am overwhelmed, exhausted, and burned-out. Teaching isn’t fun anymore. There’s no room for enrichment and creativity! The kids are no longer asked to use their imagination. My students hate writing because it’s not fun, it’s evidence-based! After 25 years of teaching and inspiring children, I’m ready to retire. I don’t think I can continue to watch what “These people” are doing to our children! They are ruining their future!

  3. How can you opt out of a test called PARRC that LA does not have a contract for giving to LA students. Are folks misusing what they mean to be the Louisiana state tests grades 3-11? Help me understand please.

  4. Jessica Stubbs

    Excellent. I have shared my concerns as well as a parent of 4 public school children, a scholar of education leadership, and a public school teacher.
    Jessica Stubbs, Ph.D.

    • Jessica,
      I have read a copy of your letter, and I think you hit the nail on the head!!! I commend you for your courage to speak out. It was very well written and very thorough. I hope STPSB will consider your request. We all need to stand up for our children. Their future depends on it!

  5. Thank you, Dr. Kirylo, for your candidness. As a BESE member and superintendent of St. Martin Parish Schools, I was recently interviewed by a reporter who asked what are my thoughts regarding parents who choose to opt their children out of testing. My response: I am concerned that schools and school systems are being held “hostage” to letter grades. Therefore, superintendents and educators are compelled to encourage students to take the PARCC assessment for fear of losing academic standing. I realize there are superintendents and school boards across this state who would quickly opt out of testing if it were not for fear of a loss of federal and state funding.

    Additionally, I am concerned that there is no clear guidance of what will happen to students who opt out. Districts must have uniform procedures in place. Will there be consequences for students who opt out? I received a policy that indicated students who opt out will receive zeros. (Other reports have indicated there are no punitive consequences for students this year because we are establishing a baseline.) I am not sure this is the case because some districts may revise their pupil progression plans to address non-participants. Confusion exists which merits a special meeting of BESE to offer guidance. One thing is certain. We must stand united to ask BESE to seek a waiver on the issuance of letter grades to school systems. I do realize that many parents share your concerns, my concerns, and those of educators across our nation. Many believe that opting out is the only CHOICE they have to stand up for their students, teachers, and school districts and against an agenda that exists to dismantle traditional public education. How often have we heard it stated that parents should have CHOICE? Now some parents will exercise their CHOICE of opting out. BESE could approve a pause in letter grade assignments during this baseline year. Dr. Kirylo, I agree we must adhere to what education research says and not follow those who merely think this reform will work.

    • James Kirylo

      Very well stated, Lottie. As you likely know, there is a parent (and teachers, too) avalanche unfolding all over the country, speaking loudly and clearly, “We are tired of this narrow test-centric way of doing things.” PARCC is only the tip of the iceberg. Thanks for your service on BESE.

  6. Mother of two

    Let’s not forget we’ve read that children with accommodations will not receive them. I’ve voiced my children’s stories at our School Board meeting and been several times, written state reps, BESE members, Jindal, and even John White. No response from BESE 8 and JW responded with, ‘Many thanks for your note. John. Some say 99% are ok with this. I pulled my kids out from public school yesterday. Be BRAVE. These are your children. This is abuse you cannot tolerate. You must reach out for their future. Contact everyone. Sunset the ESEA bill by calling our Senators this week. Learn about it. It will force more common core mandates into private and homeschools. Washington votes this month. Familiesagainstcommoncore.org

    • James Kirylo

      Silence and evasiveness is their M.O. However, more and more parents are waking up, forcing JW and members of BESE to appropriately engage with respect, honor, and duty.

  7. Get rid of Common Core.

  8. Caroline Vergis

    This is an excellent article, & people better listen to this qualified, compassionate man. Parents want the federal government & the billionaires/corporations to step away from the American kids and take their tests with them. How dare you label schools, teachers, and kids with scores–I can’t believe our value of our homes and businesses is being tied to the small backs of our over-tested kids. This is sick and unacceptable. You can identitify a good public school by looking at easily available public records: like the nearby home values, free lunch rates, crimes rates within the district. We don’t need your scores, we can observe communities & draw our own conclusions. Legislators better listen to this man if they want to stay in office. If the government & billionaires want to improve education, they can end child poverty.

  9. Karen Roger

    I retired from teaching 3 years ago after I was so frustrated to see what the powers that be expected of myself and the students. I swore I wouldn’t never teach a test but would teach students instead. I was doing exactly what I said I’d never do. Students and parents are hurting sooooooooo badly! I tutor now and try to help those who cannot grasp the CC math. It’s so sad to see that I cannot make much of a difference in their lives. I too, have trouble doing the math!! I have a degree in education and these children are just that , “children”. Too bad your article is not printed on the front page of every newspaper. Good luck with this!! It’s past time to shake up the system.

  10. I am a 5th grade teacher and one of your former students. I agree with a lot of the points you made Dr. Kirylo. Right now in school we are preparing our students for the test and completing passages daily that reflect how the students will be tested. This is not fun for them neither is it fun for me as an educator. I would love to be able to teach skills and have my students in centers/groups working on the skills being taught, but there is no time for that. And you are right, this kind of teaching does make a teacher have second thoughts about continuing to be a teacher.
    On the other hand I have to disagree with you because as a teacher I know what that score does for me and if a child had opted out then the child receives a score of 0 and in turn, so does the teacher making the teacher ineffective. This is not fair to the teacher especially when we’re just doing what we’re told/forced to do.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  11. Lisa Roberts

    You sir are the Advocate I can only aspire to be for my son, who happens to be “Exceptional”, (in the Special Needs sense)..A respected Salute to you for your message and for your courageous support of what we all as a nation, knows is right for our children, our schools, our beloved teachers, and most importantly, the our future leaders of this generation! Thank you!

  12. You Sir, are the Advocate I can only aspire to be for my son, who happens to be “Exceptional”, (in the Special Needs sense)..A respected Salute to you for your message and for your courageous support of what we all as a nation, knows is right for our children, our schools, our beloved teachers, and most importantly, the our future leaders of this generation! Thank you!

  13. Michelle Norris

    As a teacher, I cannot thank you enough for your comments. Please continue spreading this message.

  14. 11 hours of testing broken up among 3 testing periods is far less demanding than the previous testing schedule. Will he opt out of EOC, ACT, etc. does he realize that if students don’t test, we will lose federal money, which will only increase class sizes or decrease extra positions, such as RtI or enrichments.

  15. I agree 100% with the information mentioned in this article by Dr. Kirylo. I’ve been teaching for 38 years in the public schools and I saw this coming even back then in the late 70’s. Many of my colleagues, the administration, and the parents of our students will hopefully be in agreement as well with this article when I send it out to them ASAP. Thank you Dr. Kirylo for your comments and more specifically for your love for your own children and for all children not only in your home state of Louisiana but here in NJ and around this great country of ours that is quickly spiraling out of control and downward into the pit of hell. Wake up America before it’s too late. Stand up and speak up for our youth, who are our nation’s future!

  16. Peggy Johansen

    Thank you for writing such an informative and sincere letter. I am a retired teacher with 37 years of experience and I agree with you one hundred per cent.

  17. Herman Garcia

    On target Dr. Kirylo! In addition, testing companies and prescription textbook companies are fomenting this standardized knowledge industry and getting rich from it!

  18. We are putting together a meeting to force BESSE to have a meeting addressing the publics outcry of having a moratorium on PARCC testing.

  19. Brenda O'Brock

    I agree but know solutions need to be resolved before Common Core is uprooted. Any ideas?

  20. James Kirylo

    The feedback is much appreciated. Please share blog far and wide. We are having an impact toward change!

  21. James Kirylo

    Please see post from Dr. Ira Shor from City University of New York, titled “Opt-Out: The Real Parent Revolution.”

  22. Bob Richardson

    Ironic that the highly educated and respected people that are advocating “Common Core” did not have it when they were in school. Bet they are still doing math the “old fashioned way.”

  23. michelle lorson

    How do you believe we ended up in a world of accountability? Someone said educators werent doing are jobs……so here we are……so kids opt out and teachers and principals end up losing their jobs……

  24. I made the conscious, but rather difficult, decision to step out of the classroom and fin a new career last year. I am a highly qualified teacher with a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction and I loved teaching. I saw myself grow over the 11 years I taught only to find myself with health issues and frustration due to the politics involved with my former career. Common Core, standardized testing, and the push of Academic Coaches/Mentors stole my career, my livelihood, from me. I do not regret a day I spent in the classroom, but I do miss the young lives I changed, the education I delivered, and the influence I had. However, My health is in a much better state. Good teachers are leaving this profession because of all of the politics involved.

    • James D. Kirylo

      I am sorry to hear your story, Lindsey. But, sadly, I am not surprised. You are absolutely correct, many good teachers are leaving. I am glad your health is in a much better state.

  25. Hi, Dr. Kirylo, WOW! Let me say that I cannot agree with you more. I have felt like I was the only one thinking this way. As you know, I went in to the teaching profession for the children and it is not about the children at all. It’s about politics, numbers, adults justifying their jobs, higher ups having all the newest and best stuff while at the schools students either have old equipment or none. I don’t get it. It’s not about teaching kids and sharing with them the joy of learning because you are too busy teaching to a test, especially in those school districts that are not in the most popular cities in Louisiana. I can go on and on, but you have said it all. I agree with you 100%. Now if we can just get rid of teacher evaluations that are so subjective based on whether your lesson has rigor or not, and the progression of your students when they come to you three grade levels below where they are supposed to be, we might get back to “Old School” teaching. It worked for me and lots of other people. I don’t get high stakes testing at all. Why are we putting so much stress on the children we all say we love. Stress and depression is not concern or love. As far as I can see, our children are not receiving the full learning experience because we are having to focus on test questions and standards that will be covered on the test. This whole thing sounds like “The Dumming Down” of America. There are so many teachers saying that this is pulling our students down instead of up.

  26. Follow the money. It has never been about education. The company that stands to profit most from Common Core and PARCC is Pearson. Who resigned from the board of Pearson recently to pursue presidential ambition? Jeb Bush. Who has been behind the political drive for Common Core? Jeb Bush.

    I recently retired from secondary education in spite of a love for students and two master’s degrees. Teaching is not what it once was. I could no longer tolerate the testing, evaluation process and emphasis on numbers, not students. Education is now becoming codified to facilitate data analysis and the onus is on the backs of teachers.

  27. i agree with dumbing Down our children . PARCC is building schools on the other side of the world with our money. They are training these children to speak English and no common core. I think they want to conquer America and our children will not be intelligent enough to handle it. They will crash all electronics and the children will not know how to solve a problem manually. They also will have all data to know who are the intelligent ones.

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