AFT Takes Key Steps on Standards, Accountability

By Catherine Gewertz — July 14, 2014 2 min read
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While much of the country kicked back at pools or golf courses over the weekend, the American Federation of Teachers approved some key policy statements on the hottest education issues.

This was all part of the union’s convention. In case you missed the action, EdWeek’s Stephen Sawchuk has all the details for you over at the Teacher Beat blog. (If you aren’t already subscribed to Teacher Beat, you might want to do that. As a subscriber, you will get an email every time Steve posts something new, so you won’t miss any breaking news.) You can catch up on Steve’s live-tweeting from the convention at @TeacherBeat or @Stephen_Sawchuk. AFT President Randi Weingarten’s keynote address, too, is worth a look, since she weaves together all the union’s priorities.

For Curriculum Matters readers, there were three strands of big action over the weekend that are especially worthy of a look as you start your week:

Common Core. The union approved a resolution calling for expanded teacher input into implementation of the common core standards. As Steve reports, there was extended, angry debate on this. The resolution says the AFT will support the “promise” of the standards under certain conditions, including the creation of panels of teachers to monitor implementation, teachers playing a significant role in evaluating and even revising the standards. Other conditions? Rejecting “low-level standardized testing” and embracing a moratorium on using test results for high-stakes decisions. A stronger resolution, which would have called for opposing the common standards outright, didn’t make it to the floor for a vote, Steve reports. The text of the AFT’s common-core resolution is here.

Accountability. The AFT approved a resolution calling for a new approach to accountability that’s based on support and improvement rather than a “disastrous” “shame-and-blame/test-and-punish” concept. Schools ought to be measured, instead, by qualitative measures, among other things, the resolution says. Here’s the full text.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Lots of people were wondering whether the AFT would call for Duncan’s immediate resignation, as the NEA did at its recent convention. The AFT’s resolution didn’t exactly do that; instead, it called for President Barack Obama to put Duncan on an improvement plan or demand his resignation. What does Duncan have to do to be considered sufficiently improved? Stuff like revising rules for accountability systems along the “support and improve” lines we mentioned above, and embracing policies that “promote rather than question” teachers. You can find the text of the full resolution here.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.