Teaching Profession

AFT Delegates Take Stand on Standardized Testing

By Stephen Sawchuk — July 28, 2012 2 min read
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Delegates to the American Federation of Teachers approved a resolution on standardized testing that, among other things, calls for a “proper balance” in the use of assessments and says that tests should be used to provide information to “help students, teachers, and schools improve, not sanction and undermine them.”

“We turn our wonderful children and their needs into data, and that data is not used to inform instruction, it’s use to feed into the accountability monster,” said Andrew Dewey, of the Houston Federation of Teachers.

That this resolution passed, let me state plainly, is not a big surprise. The AFT has been promoting it for a while, and has even started a petition on testing that members of the public can sign.

The resolution isn’t quite as detailed as the National Education Association’s 16-point screed against testing (also known as resolution B-66) or as hardline as the position of test-critic group FairTest. But it is certainly a step in the same direction. Witness the inclusion of the phrase “test-and-punish” to describe accountability. I’m pretty sure that was originally an NEA formulation from the days of Reg Weaver’s presidency.

Still unclear is whether this modifies the union’s existing positions on assessment or teacher evaluation. A few years back, AFT President Randi Weingarten said that tests could be one measure of student achievement (among several) in evaluations. Does that still stand?

For you AFT-watcher wonks, meanwhile, it’s worth noting that there was also an unsuccessful movement from the Chicago Teachers Union on the floor to make this resolution even tougher.

CTU delegates had proposed a second resolution on testing that would have required AFT to help affiliates pressure state legislatures to produce analyses of the cost and scope of standardized testing and the amount of instructional time spent preparing students for the exams. It was approved by the union’s educational issues committee, but it was not one of the top three resolutions reported out. (Only the top three are guaranteed to go to the convention floor.)

So, on the floor, a CTU delegate made a motion to combine this second resolution with the first one.

“Yesterday, the [committee] was unanimous in its support, we all recognize that this is needed. The problem was that it wasn’t prioritized. We all recognize how important this language is, it gives teeth to [the first testing resolution],” said CTU delegate Adam Heenan.

This amendment didn’t pass, however.

Keep in mind what I reported yesterday about internal AFT politics. Is it a coincidence, or quite deliberate, that this proposal came out of the Chicago CORE caucus, and that other non-CORE delegates subsequently spoke against it? You decide.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.