Resolution Calls for Move from Test-and-Punish System to Support-and-Improve Model
LOS ANGELES—To restore joy to teaching and learning and create strong community public schools that are safe, collaborative and welcoming places, AFT members today passed a resolution taking a bold stand against the obsession with testing and calling for an end to the failed test-and-punish accountability system to one focused on support and improvement. AFT President Randi Weingarten called it the most important resolution passed at the AFT convention.
The resolution, "Real Accountability for Equity and Excellence in Public Education," which passed virtually unanimously, states that "the very purpose of public education and the joy of both teaching and learning are now at risk because policymakers perversely attempt to capture—and evaluate—everything about teaching and learning with testing."
"Our obsession with testing, in the guise of accountability, is hijacking public schooling," said AFT President Randi Weingarten. "Testing should be about giving students a sense of where they stand and teachers and parents the information they need to tailor instruction and support kids. Instead, it's being used to reduce children to test scores and teachers to algorithms."
The resolution specifically calls out:
- The over-reliance on flawed value-added measures (VAM) used to punish and sanction teachers;
- The use of test results to fire teachers, close schools and hand schools over to privatizers;
- The failure of test-based accountability to improve student performance or ensure equitable distribution of resources;
- How the current system fails to recognize that two-thirds of the achievement gap is attributable to nonschool factors and is the opposite approach taken by education systems that outcompete us globally;
- The increased segregation through public school disinvestment and charter school and privatization expansion;
- How inappropriate education policies, austerity budgets, deprofessionalization and privatization have made education about competition instead of about the needs of all children; and
- The need to respect teachers' professionalism and engage teachers in improving equity and excellence in our schools.
"Accountability shouldn't come down to test-and-punish, and classroom teachers shouldn't be the only ones held accountable," Weingarten said. "That's why we are making the call for a thoughtful accountability system that makes students, not data, the priority, focuses on meaningful student learning and ensures adequate resources. It's time to stop the failed policy of making every child in every grade take standardized tests every year and evaluating teachers on standardized test scores of students they haven't even taught."
Instead of the current failed policies, the resolution calls for:
- Engaging all stakeholders in planning and implementing accountability systems that are transparent and readily understandable by teachers, families and the broader public;
- Ensuring that students are taught a well-rounded curriculum, including the arts, the sciences, social studies, civics, world languages, health and physical education, and social, emotional and character development;
- Assessments that are aligned to higher-order thinking and performance skills;
- Relying on sampling instead of testing every student at every grade level every year, but retaining disaggregated reporting by race, ethnicity, poverty level, English language status and disability;
- Identifying schools needing improvement through measures beyond test scores;
- Holding policymakers and administrators accountable for allocating the necessary resources to support schools;
- Holding all stakeholders, not just teachers, responsible for meeting students' needs and achieving both equity and excellence for all students;
- Ending austerity budgets; and
- Investments in wraparound services to address the social, emotional and health needs of students.
"Taken together, the education resolutions passed at the AFT's convention offer a blueprint to help fulfill public education's essential purpose as an anchor of democracy, a propeller of the economy and the vehicle through which we help all children achieve their dreams," said Weingarten. "They help build the foundation for a public education system focused on great teaching, a rich and vibrant curriculum focused on learning over testing, safe and welcoming neighborhood public schools, valuing and respecting the voice of educators, and ensuring children have the resources and services they need to enable their success in the classroom and in life."