AFT - American Federation of Teachers

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AFT Resolutions

THE ROLE OF STANDARDS IN PUBLIC EDUCATION

WHEREAS, the AFT is working with parents, civic, business and faith leaders, and our broader communities to reclaim the promise of public education to provide each and every child an equitable and excellent public education, which helps to prepare them for life, citizenship, career and college; and

WHEREAS, the AFT believes in the promise and potential of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) but is deeply disappointed in the manner in which they have been implemented and the lack of shared responsibility among too many governors, chief state school officers and policymakers who have ignored the voice of practitioners who are vital to the successful implementation of the standards; and

WHEREAS, the CCSS are a crucial piece of an equitable and excellent education system, because they hold the promise and potential of:

  • Developing students’ deep conceptual understanding, critical thinking and problem-solving abilities;
  • Promoting interdisciplinary teaching, with purposeful connections among content areas;
  • Freeing teachers from prescriptive programs and pacing guides that devalue their professional expertise and judgment;
  • Encouraging collaboration among teachers to create rich lessons that connect content to real life; and

WHEREAS, the Common Core State Standards were developed under the aegis of the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers with an engaged cadre of AFT members, but without sufficient educator input prior to adoption by the states; and

WHEREAS, standards are one element in an effective system that must also include, as recommended by the AFT Ad Hoc Committee on the Standards (2011):

  • An aligned curriculum developed locally;
  • Appropriate educational materials and technology;
  • Quality and meaningful professional development for educators;
  • Schools designed to support time for teachers to collaborate to help students meet the standards;
  • High-quality and aligned assessments used to improve teaching and learning and to measure how well students meet the standards; 
  • An accountability system that replaces the current ineffective “test-and-punish/blame-and-shame” model with a “support-and-improve” system; and

WHEREAS, it is especially outrageous that the equity agenda that includes the Common Core is threatened in many states and districts:

  • By flawed and hasty implementation before all the pieces of a comprehensive high-quality education system are in place;
  • By inadequate resources and failure to address the wraparound services that many students need to be successful;
  • By a political agenda to privatize public education;
  • By testing students before they have had an opportunity to learn the knowledge and skills in the new standards; and

WHEREAS, the promise and potential of the CCSS to improve teaching and learning has been compromised by corporate interests to monetize the standards; and

WHEREAS, some AFT members oppose and distrust the CCSS because they believe:

  • Not enough input from teachers was built into the development of the standards and the rollout processes;
  • Some instructional practices related to the CCSS—and even the standards themselves at the earliest grades—are not developmentally appropriate;
  • There has been a rush to “cash in” on the Common Core by profiteers and corporate interests at the expense of children;
  • States are testing students who have not been fully prepared for the CCSS, including in some cases where Common Core-aligned curriculum and instructional resources are not even available;
  • Assessment results are inappropriately being linked to high-stakes consequences despite the incomplete and often flawed implementation efforts;
  • The politically manipulated and technically invalid “proficiency levels” that are being imposed serve to widen the achievement gap; and
  • Test results are used to label students, teachers, and schools as failures rather than for school improvement; and

WHEREAS, some AFT members are strong supporters of the CCSS because they believe:

  • The literacy standards, in addition to English language arts, include the social studies, history, science and technical subjects;
  • The mathematics standards connect skills and concepts and are extremely clear about what topics should be learned within and across grades;
  • The standards are cohesive and clear and include grade-by-grade mapping of knowledge and skills where topics build upon one another and subjects connect to one another;
  • There is a focus on deeper learning and key skills, including critical thinking, application of knowledge, collaboration, teamwork, perseverance and resilience;
  • They have the potential to replace mindless test preparation and scripted lessons by bringing teacher creativity and student engagement back into the classroom;
  • The standards can form the basis for meaningful, teacher-driven professional development;
  • Most important, they increase equity and access to middle-class jobs by making essential knowledge and skills available to all children, not just some; and

WHEREAS, the AFT continues to assist state and local affiliates that are implementing the CCSS by:

  • Offering train-the-trainer and direct professional development aligned to the CCSS in English language arts and mathematics, as well as social studies and science through literacy standards;
  • Developing and disseminating a resource kit to build awareness and boost local and regional professional development on the standards, supporting diverse learners, and including students with disabilities and English language learners;
  • Expanding AFT’s cadres of expert teachers to continue to advise on the standards and proper implementation;
  • Launching Share My Lesson as an online resource-sharing site containing more than 30,000 free resources aligned to the CCSS and growing every day;
  • Creating tools to determine if curriculum are, in fact, aligned to the standards;
  • Awarding AFT Innovation Fund grants for the creation of lessons, units, professional development and parent-engagement resources;
  • Advocating for the tools, time and trust needed by teachers and other school-related personnel to effectively implement the CCSS; and
  • Advocating for a moratorium on the high-stakes consequences of CCSS-related assessments for students, teachers and schools:

RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers will continue to support the promise of CCSS, provided that a set of essential conditions, structures and resources are in place. Making those necessary corrections will, in the long run, keep us from going back to a system that did not address the needs of many students, especially disadvantaged students, English language learners and students with disabilities; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will continue to reject low-level standardized testing and support the development of assessments aligned with rich curricula that encourage the kinds of higher-order thinking and performance skills students will need to use in the world outside of school; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will continue to advocate for a shift in culture away from excessive testing and test preparation to a “support-and-improve” accountability system that seeks to hold all stakeholders accountable for the success of our students and uses assessments and other information to improve teaching and learning; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will vigorously support our affiliates in their efforts to hold policymakers and administrators accountable for the proper implementation of the CCSS; and

RESOLVED, that because of the lack of strong teacher voice and the careful and regular review required for responsible implementation, the AFT will advocate that each state create an independent board composed of a majority representation of teachers and other education professionals. The purpose of these boards is to monitor the implementation of CCSS and use feedback from parents, educators and students to evaluate and continuously improve the system; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will assist state and local affiliates in their efforts to ensure that, where the CCSS are being implemented:

  • Educators are involved in creating a cohesive plan for communicating with and engaging all stakeholders;
  • Educators through their unions have a significant role in the continuing development, implementation, evaluation and, as necessary, revision of the CCSS process in their schools; and
  • There are adequate funds provided by all levels of government—federal, state and local—to ensure the successful implementation of the CCSS; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT calls for a national conversation about how best to measure student learning; support teacher involvement in all aspects of Common Core-related assessments; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will work to ensure that the moratorium on the high-stakes consequences of Common Core-aligned assessments for students, teachers and schools is extended until such time as all the essential elements of a comprehensive, equitable standards-based system, including the technological infrastructure, are in place.


(2014)