AFT - American Federation of Teachers

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AFT Resolutions


WHEREAS, because the AFT strongly supports standards-based reform, including appropriate testing, it is especially outrageous that this critical reform is threatened by uninformed implementation. The public and teachers are understandably deeply troubled that standardized tests are all too often being used inappropriately, are usurping too much instructional time, and are crowding out recognition of other important subject areas; and

WHEREAS, the public, parents and teachers remain solidly behind standards-based education reform, which testing reveals is paying off in solid and sometimes dramatic progress in raising all students' achievement; and

WHEREAS, the results of external tests, along with classroom assessments, are critical professional tools for teachers, enabling them to understand more fully their students' ¾ and their own¾ strengths and weaknesses and thereby devise appropriate instructional and professional development strategies; and

WHEREAS, taxpayer-funded institutions must be open and accountable to the public that supports them and such openness and accountability represent key distinctions between public and private institutions; and

WHEREAS, openness and public accountability are not only two of the hallmarks of democratic institutions, but they are also necessary means for assessing and furthering progress in the achievement of democratic values and goals, such as fairness, equal opportunity and the well-being of all members of society; and

WHEREAS, in education, achievement testing and the public reporting of results from all schools receiving public funds are legitimate and necessary means for discharging the responsibility to be open and accountable to the public and for determining and furthering progress in the attainment of national goals such as equal educational opportunity, the elimination of achievement gaps based on family background and raising the academic performance of all students; and

WHEREAS, achievement testing and reporting are also two of the necessary means for public education to fulfill its responsibility to the parents who entrust their children to our schools, and, in turn, can help parents better participate in their children's education; and

WHEREAS, in too many instances, the public and teachers are rightly concerned that standardized tests alone, rather than standards-based teaching and learning, are increasingly driving standards-based reform.  Most disturbing is that these tests are often not aligned to the state's academic standards, are based on vague or weak standards or do not measure the depth and breadth of the standards; and

WHEREAS, parents and educators alike worry that children are being over tested, taking time away from valuable instruction, and that a reliance on standardized test results encourages a "teach-to-the-test" mentality that narrows the curriculum; and

WHEREAS, very few states and local districts adhere to professional standards for test development and use, and only a handful of states use tests that are based on curricula linked to high standards, and even fewer have provided the support teachers and students need to meet the higher standards; and

WHEREAS, many states and local districts grossly misuse test results when they make high-stakes decisions affecting students, schools or school staff, based on testing and accountability systems that do not meet professional standards in testing and measurement; and

WHEREAS, it is essential that standards-based education not be hijacked by improper test use and that tests be used responsibly and in ways that support, rather than undermine, the teaching and learning process. In particular, we must separate the poor, and sometimes punitive, implementation of some testing and accountability systems from the legitimate need for professionally sound achievement testing to measure the progress of students in meeting the standards and to diagnose problems:

RESOLVED, that the AFT will:

  • continue to support appropriate, high-quality testing as an essential element of standards-based reform;
  • continue to oppose the abuse, misuse and overuse of standardized testing;
  • call upon the federal government to create an independent, nonpartisan entity to serve as a public source of information on effective testing and accountability systems and about practices that fall short of professional standards for the development and proper use of tests;
  • monitor student testing practices to ensure that tests are used responsibly and in ways that support and enhance the teaching and learning process. The AFT will track and evaluate state efforts to develop coherent standards-based systems with special emphasis on the states' testing and accountability programs;
  • develop and publicize guidelines for the use of standardized assessments. Such guidelines will include information regarding the need for
    • teachers to have a voice in the development, implementation, evaluation and use of standardized tests;
    • strong standards, curriculum, extra help for struggling students the necessity for appropriate funding, and standards-based professional development to be in place before tests are used for high-stakes decisions;
    • tests to meet professional standards if they are to be used as part of high-stakes decisions;
    • administrators and state education department officials to use tests only for the purposes for which they are designed;
    • other pertinent information on student achievement, including teacher professional judgment, to be considered in decisions using test data for purposes such as promotion between grades or determining types of intervention needed;
    • professional development for teachers in how to use assessment data to inform instructional decision making;
    • accommodations for special-needs students and individual waivers for special-needs students as determined by their IEP team; and
    • multiple opportunities for students to retake high-stakes tests.

  • support the development of responsible reporting procedures that provide a context for understanding test results by including data, such as class size, numbers of certified teachers, student attendance and mobility rates, that make the results intelligible to parents and the public and useful to teachers and other school personnel;
  • identify and disseminate professional development programs to help teachers use test results and test data for instructional and school improvement; and
  • identify and disseminate professional development programs to help teachers collect and present credible evidence of student learning that goes beyond standardized test scores.