YOLO: So Why Was a Texas Prankster Suspended When There Were Better Options?

Kyron Birdine, a high school junior in Arlington, Texas, didn't see much point to taking an extra standardized test that wouldn't be used to evaluate him in any way. Kyron will graduate from high school under the standards of TAKS, Texas's old high-stakes exam, but he and his classmates were still required to sit for STAAR, a new test that the state is phasing in. So, instead of writing an essay on the STAAR test, Kyron protested by writing "I have the TAKS test to study for, not this unneeded craziness. Yolo. :)" YOLO, of course, is the acronym for "You Only Live Once." Kyron was telling the school not to waste his time.

Kyron then took a picture of his response and sent it to the Arlington Independent School District and the Texas Education Agency (TEA) on Twitter.

Apparently unamused, school officials suspended him from school for four days. That's almost a week of education he'll miss out on. We hope school administrators thought hard about whether suspension was the appropriate response to Kyron's behavior, as studies have shown that suspensions make kids much more likely to repeat a grade or drop out of high school and much more likely to wind up involved with the juvenile justice system. In fact, suspensions are often the first step in the school-to-prison pipeline. This is especially true for African-American students like Kyron, who are disproportionately likely to be suspended or expelled.

Now, we're not saying that students have a right to use mobile devices during exams. We're just pleading with Arlington, and school districts around the country, to use more constructive forms of discipline, like positive behavioral supports, in place of suspensions and expulsions. The ACLU of Texas has lots of ideas about how the school-to-prison pipeline in Texas can change. And even the state educational commissioner thinks the situation has gotten out of hand. Noting that 119 districts saw a doubling in the number of black students who were suspended during the 2011-12 school year, he is asking the state legislature to give the commissioner authority to set instructional standards for students who are suspended, so they don't miss out on their education, and for the commissioner to deal with districts that overuse suspension as a disciplinary tool.

Kyron has a 3.0 GPA and plans to go to college. He's smart enough and bold enough to think up a clever (and, let's admit, pretty funny) response to the bureaucracy of high-stakes testing that he finds himself caught in. This is the kind of kid whose energy our schools need to capture. Let's demand that he not be pushed out instead.

Image courtesy of Gawker.

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Richard Razniko...

The malignancy that is the standardized testing mania is causing great damage to children across America, not only in wasting their time –– in California, these idiotic tests suck up close to a month of teaching/learning time in the preparation, administration, grading and evaluating of the tests –– but in artificially circumscribing what is considered important to learn. We have essentially eliminated from the field of study anything outside the test. The focus on memorization, which this requires, amputates the process of real learning, which requires inquiry, curiosity, collaboration, error, and further exploration. Why are students cutting themselves? Why are they demonstrating widespread suicidal ideation? Ask school counselors what they're seeing.

Ken Lane

I sent tweets to both entities, myself...

"Is stupidity mandatory for school administration these days? Things have surely changed from the 1970's!"




It would have been better to get all the Juniors to do the same thing and quietly sit through the whole test. Turn it in, not saying a word. The teachers and administration are not allowed to look at them. They would then have the admin in an uproar because of failing test scores.


He has a point when I get to high school I dont want to be taking stupid test that dont mean anything. Get real I mean dont make us take something for nothing.



Schools use the "security" line regarding standardized tests the same way they use FERPA - to hide what they are doing. It appears that what is happening here is that students are being forced to take a test which has no meaning for them - but they take it to facilitate the "norming" of the test before it is administered to other students for real. Using public school students and coercion save the testing company having to pay people to take the tests for norming purposes and there is likely a kick-back to the school system or administrators.

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