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American Federation of Teachers: Resolution Against High-Stakes Testing

July 29, 2012

Those of you who have been reading me for the past year and a half know of my disdain for high-stakes testing.   I am not against assessing students to see what they know in order to inform what and how we teach, actually – I feel that assessing for these reasons is absolutely critical to good teaching.  But, I am seriously opposed to using test scores to label children as Advanced, Proficient, Basic, Below-Basic, and the loathsome Far-Below-Basic (as if BB wasn’t bad enough)!  I am also opposed to using test scores to bludgeon teachers and schools in order to label them as failing.  We all remember days when we weren’t at our best…many students take their critical end-of-year tests on these days, and the poor results that follow are used in a variety of negative ways for both students and teacher alike.

High-stakes testing is not used in other countries where students consistently score highly on international tests…why do we feel the need to do it here?  In my opinion, using high-stakes testing to portray “weakness” in public schools is by design, and that design is to chip away at the foundations of our public teaching institutions so that the income stream that goes for the public good of educating our children can be privatized.  The motives are clear, and they are not in the best interests of this country, especially to those in lower income brackets.

American Federation of Teachers members took a stand against what they say is a fixation on high-stakes testing in U.S. schools – unanimously passing a resolution today that says testing should inform education, not impede it.

“We need to re-balance this so that teaching is the center of education, not testing,” Randi Weingarten, AFT president, said after the vote.

The Washington, D.C.-based union – which has 1.5 million members – is holding its annual convention this year at Cobo Center in Detroit. Nearly 2,400 people from across the country are registered for the convention, officials said today.

The testing resolution was one of the most important the delegates were to consider, Weingarten said in the days leading up to the convention. 

The resolution says assessments are an integral part of public education. But it takes aim at the current environment.

“The current test-and-punish accountability model has seriously damaged public education,” the resolution says.

Among those who spoke in support of the resolution was Donald Brown of the Pajaro Valley Federation of Teachers in California.

“They have used these tests to hammer us, to humiliate us and to make our students look like they’re not achieving,” Brown said.

Andrew Dewey of the Houston Federation of Teachers in Texas said testing is turning “our wonderful children into data points. It’s not used to inform; it’s used to feed the data accountability monster.”

Earlier today, the delegates heard from Bob King, president of the United Auto Workers, who railed against what he said is right-wing politics that have reduced funding for schools, reduced support services in schools and left class sizes bulging.

 

“And then they turn around and they try to vilify teachers for not doing a great job in educating our kids,” King said this morning, speaking before teachers gathered at Cobo Center for the annual meeting of the American Federation of Teachers.

“I believe teachers in America, especially teachers in K-12 education, especially teachers in urban education, you are miracle workers.”

The AFT convention in Detroit, its first one here in several decades, has so far drawn 2,350 delegates from across the country. The convention began Friday and runs through Monday.

King said the labor movement in Michigan “is fighting a difficult battle.”

He specifically noted the state’s emergency manager law, saying it is anti-democratic “and should not be allowed.

The EM law, efforts in Michigan and across the country to adopt what he described as voter suppression laws, and efforts to curb collective bargaining rights are destroying democracy in America.

He said President Barack Obama should be re-elected, saying no one else “has stood for collective bargaining the way this president has.”

But he said re-electing Obama isn’t the end of the fight.

“We have to be committed to rebuilding a social and economic justice movement,” King said.

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