DETROIT—Delegates to the AFT national convention, representing 1.5 million members, today passed a series of resolutions that reinforce the union's commitment to solution-driven unionism and to increased educational and economic opportunity. AFT delegates called for an end to America's fixation on high-stakes testing; adopted a new mission statement for the union; and redoubled the union's commitment to putting Americans back to work, stabilizing communities, and investing in infrastructure and public services.
Declaring that America's fixation on high-stakes testing is denying children the rich, meaningful education they deserve, AFT delegates unanimously passed a resolution to ensure that tests inform, not impede, teaching and learning.
"It's time to restore balance in our schools so that teaching and learning, not testing, are at the center of education," said AFT President Randi Weingarten. "Test-driven education policies continue to force educators to sacrifice time needed to help students learn to critically analyze content and, instead, focus on teaching to the test. And students lose out on rich learning experiences when districts cut art, music, sports, social studies, science and other subjects to focus strictly on math and reading tests."
AFT members are not alone in raising concerns about the current fixation on testing. In the past month, nearly 23,000 parents, teachers and students from across the country have signed on to AFT's petition demanding an end to high-stakes testing.
AFT's resolution states that:
"...We believe in assessments that support teaching and learning, and align with curriculum rather than narrow it; that are developed through collaborative efforts, not picked off a shelf; that are focused on measuring growth and continuous development instead of arbitrary targets unconnected to how students learn; that rely on diverse, authentic, and multiple indicators of student performance rather than filling in bubbles; and that provide information leading to appropriate interventions that help students, teachers and schools improve, not sanctions that undermine them. ..."
In her keynote address to convention delegates yesterday, Weingarten outlined a new vision for unionism that is creative and visionary, relevant to the 21st century and advances solutions that unite union members, the people they serve and the communities in which they live.
This vision is reflected in the AFT's new mission statement adopted today:
"The American Federation of Teachers is a union of professionals that champions fairness; democracy; economic opportunity; and high-quality public education, healthcare and public services for our students, their families and our communities. We are committed to advancing these principles through community engagement, organizing, collective bargaining and political activism, and especially through the work our members do."
"This new mission statement makes it crystal clear who we are, what we believe and what we will fight for," said Weingarten. "Economic opportunity, strengthening communities, fairness and democracy—these are the values and principles that AFT members hold dear. They are part of our DNA."
In addition, AFT delegates passed a resolution advancing solutions to put Americans back to work, protect public education and other critical services, rebuild the middle class and address income inequality. These include:
- Raising needed revenue and protecting public services and jobs by advocating tax policies that force the wealthy and big corporations to contribute their fair share in taxes;
- Opposing penny-wise, pound-foolish austerity measures that have actually hurt, not helped, our capacity to grow our economy;
- Ensuring that states and localities collect all taxes that are owed;
- Ensuring that public services are high-quality and delivered as effectively as possible, and giving workers a voice through labor-management cooperation on how to provide services more efficiently; and
- Investing the pension funds of educators in projects to rebuild America's infrastructure and retrofit out-of-date buildings to make them more energy efficient and to create jobs.
"These are innovative, creative, entrepreneurial solutions to address the deep economic pain our families and communities face, confront the attacks on the services educators and other public service workers provide, and rebuild the middle class," said Weingarten. "Through these measures, we can put the brakes on this rampant race to the bottom and ensure economic opportunity for all Americans."
AFT delegates also considered and approved several other resolutions guiding the work of the union, including resolutions on digital learning and confronting the attacks on public employees and public services.
In addition to affirming important policy positions, AFT delegates today were addressed by United Auto Workers president Bob King; historian of education at New York University and best-selling author Diane Ravitch; Detroit Branch NAACP president, the Rev. Wendell Anthony; and others.
"Insist on the importance of public education in a democratic society, doors open to all, not by lottery but by right," said Ravitch. "It’s time to end this reign of error."
More than 3,000 AFT delegates have gathered from across the country for the AFT national convention in Detroit, representing preK-12 teachers; paraprofessionals and school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; early childhood educators; federal, state and local government employees; and nurses and other healthcare professionals.
Follow AFT for convention updates: http://twitter.com/AFTunion #AFTConv12