AFT Resolution

ELEVATING PUBLIC SCHOOLS BEYOND THE LEGACY OF COVID-19

WHEREAS, the American Federation of Teachers believes in and stands ready to fight for public education, as a high-quality public education is an economic necessity, an anchor of democracy, a moral imperative and a fundamental civil right; and

WHEREAS, years of disinvestment in public education have led to overcrowded classrooms, schools without nurses, librarians, counselors and the specialized personnel that ensure children’s well-being; deteriorating school buildings with outdated materials and technology; unhealthy and unsafe environments; and a too-narrow array of academic, enrichment and extracurricular programs; and

WHEREAS, the over-reliance on standardized test scores in punitive test-based accountability systems has created an education system where schools are ranked and sorted rather than supported, pitting the needs of our most vulnerable students against more affluent communities; and

WHEREAS, the coronavirus is a global pandemic threatening the health, safety and economic well-being of the people we represent and those we serve; and

WHEREAS, the AFT recognizes that the burdens of systemic racism and poverty are felt in communities where members live and work, and we fight for equitable educational opportunities for all students; and

WHEREAS, temporary school building closures due to COVID-19 highlighted and exacerbated existing inequities within the education system caused by polarization, privatization, and cuts to public education funding, and added to the challenges many students already face in their daily lives, such as food scarcity and insufficient housing, child care and health services; and

WHEREAS, students from low-income backgrounds, students of color, students with disabilities, English language learners, and youth experiencing homelessness are more likely to lack access to high-speed internet[1] and 1:1 access to a device (tablet or laptop); and

WHEREAS, delivering virtual distance learning, where students spend most of their school day online—interacting with their coursework, teachers and peers through technology—is only an emergency option and doesn’t meet the full needs of any student; and

WHEREAS, research shows that teachers are integral to the success or failure of technology use in schools, and educators must have meaningful input on the purchase of technology, virtual distance-learning plans, and professional learning opportunities; and

WHEREAS, the AFT has long been an advocate for providing teachers and students with the highest-quality instructional materials and pedagogy, and adapting to new knowledge and tools to support improved instruction; and

WHEREAS, reopening America’s public school buildings in a post-pandemic era affords this country the opportunity to rethink schooling to achieve a more equitable, student-focused education system that helps each child to succeed and achieve; and

WHEREAS, brain science tells us that healthy cognitive, social, emotional and physical development of students must be our focus; and

WHEREAS, we are at a critical moment when we must move toward reopening school buildings and continuing American public education—not as it is today or as it was in the past but as it can be—as the center of democracy and the cornerstone in our community where every child can succeed:

RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers and our affiliates will advocate for the safe reopening of America’s public school buildings with:

  • A renewed sense of urgency to provide schools where families want to send their children, students are engaged, where educators want to teach, where curriculum is rich and inclusive, where there is joy in teaching and learning, and where all students will be prepared for college, career and citizenship;
  • A vision for public education that meets the needs of educators, school staff and students, and assists affiliates to mobilize members and unite with their communities around state and local spending practices that result in a more equitable distribution of education funds;
  • The proactive involvement of educators and school staff, families, municipal and/or regional partners and community organizations, and school administrators in decision-making as school systems work with public health authorities to plan for returning to school buildings as well as with school-level safety committees. This includes programming, space, operations, staff deployment, scheduling, and aligning all the public health interventions with all the schooling interventions that address students’ healthy physical, social, emotional and academic development; nurturing productive relationships; building resilience; supporting diversity and inclusion; and rebuilding the school community;
  • A goal for the strategic establishment of 25,000 community schools where students and families can access tailored health services and social services in one place, and marginalized communities can have access to services and support; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will support social emotional learning and the well-being of students and staff by:

  • Advocating for the adoption of “whole child” supports and practices that facilitate students’ sense of belonging, including positive school climate, productive instructional strategies, social emotional development, and individualized student support;
  • Advocating for additional school staff who have expertise in mental health to serve staff, students and families;
  • Increasing our collective capacity to provide or partner on training on trauma-informed practices, social emotional learning and bereavement support;
  • Providing member benefits that support mental health and healing from trauma; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will support meaningful teaching and learning by advocating for:

  • A model of distance learning that is temporary, not used to replace or reduce educators or school staff, and distributes educational time between in-person learning and distance learning, when school attendance is limited, or developmentally appropriate, full-remote instruction (synchronous and asynchronous) when school attendance is not possible;
  • Adequate staffing necessary to provide specialized instruction, related services and other supports to ensure that students with disabilities are receiving the supports that allow them to access instruction and support staff who specialize in the physical and emotional health of students;
  • Equitable school environments that reject colorblind ideology and curriculum centered around whiteness and replace with culturally responsive teaching and curriculum that is inclusive of other racial groups’ history, contributions and insights, authentic performance assessment, and continuous time and support for staff to become culturally proficient;
  • Increased time for planning, collaborating and creating student-centered learning environments, whether in person or virtually, in which pedagogical practices ensure that the students are active, not passive, participants;
  • Innovative ways for schools to engage students and infuse hands-on student-centered learning approaches that foster student ownership of learning;
  • Strengthened relationships with and among educators, students, families and communities, and partner organizations to help procure resources for a variety of learning environments; extend learning outside the classroom; and offer connection to community issues and the students’ world; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will work to address the technology gap among students and educators by:

  • Advocating for partnerships at the national, state, and local levels that will allow state federations and local affiliates to collaborate with internet/cable providers to improve access issues in their community;
  • Advocating for the inclusion of educators to assist districts and schools with developing research-based, age-appropriate student learning schedules, as it pertains to screen time and use of technology;
  • Advocating for greater investment and more effective use of technology in high-poverty school districts and rural areas for students and educators;
  • Advocating for schools, districts and states to have regular methods for identifying students and educators without access to the internet and the hardware that is critical to distance learning, and provide free or low-cost options for internet access and equipment;
  • Advocating for districts and schools to determine solutions for equitable access to learning opportunities, with teacher input, for those who are unable to connect to online learning;
  • Advocating that district policies include: (1) requirements for professional development for teachers on the integration of technology, and (2) an equitable and transparent process for purchasing and distributing technology;
  • Advocating for states to adopt new or strengthen existing data privacy laws to ensure safeguards are in place for sensitive student and teacher data;
  • Encouraging state federations and local affiliates to develop or endorse criteria for high-quality online student learning experiences;
  • Advocating for educators, not for-profit companies, to lead the policy, design, development and training of technological educational innovations adopted by schools in distance learning; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will support improved teacher development, evaluation and systems of support by:

  • Encouraging state federations and local affiliates to develop or endorse criteria for high-quality professional development that supports instruction and new safety measures in the new environment (virtual learning);
  • Advocating for school districts to put formal evaluations on hold for the 2020-21 school year and beyond until the districts develop new expectations for the possibility of instruction that alternates between in-person learning and distance learning;
  • Advocating that systems designed to evaluate teachers for accountability and job action decisions should be retooled and repurposed and include collaboration with all stakeholders to provide the best information administrators, coaches and teachers need to help guide instructional improvement in this new educational environment; and
  • Advocating for the training of all staff on how to identify students struggling with trauma in addition to their own trauma, and how to access mental health professionals free of cost to educators and students; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will advocate for districts and states to develop systems of assessments that support teaching and learning by:

  • Seeking waivers on state summative assessments and the high-stakes consequences attached to them as the upcoming year is a bridge period following prolonged coronavirus closures and re-established instruction in schools;
  • Conducting comprehensive reviews of all assessment programs to limit the loss of learning time to excessive testing;
  • Prioritizing assessments that support and help target teaching and learning, including reliable, nonintrusive and teacher-friendly diagnostics—both in-person and virtual; and
  • Supporting teacher use of authentic assessments wherein students are asked to perform real-world tasks that demonstrate meaningful application of what they have learned.

 

 

(2020)

Please note that a newer resolution, or portion of a resolution, may have superseded an earlier resolution on the same subject. As a result, with the exception of resolutions adopted at our most recent AFT convention, resolutions do not necessarily reflect current AFT policies.