AFT Resolution

EQUITY THROUGH CULTURALLY RESPONSIVE, BALANCED ASSESSMENT SYSTEMS

WHEREAS, an assessment system encompasses formal and informal practices, activities and procedures used authentically within classrooms to measure students' learning, are administered both during and after the learning process, resulting in data and information that is used regularly by education professionals, students and their families, and sometimes by policymakers to diagnose student learning needs and make decisions about students' education and educational opportunities; and

WHEREAS, effective classroom assessment practices are founded in culturally responsive teaching, curriculum, and assessment—and supported by school and district leaders, states, teacher educators, and measurement experts—so that students experience an equity-focused learning environment that recognizes and builds on their culture, knowledge and experience, and ensures authentic instructional and assessment tasks, which provide feedback to support students' learning and growth;[1] and

WHEREAS, classroom-based, curriculum-embedded formative assessment is the "lived, daily embodiment of a teacher's desire to refine practice based on a keener understanding of current levels of student performance, undergirded by the teacher's knowledge of possible paths of student development within the discipline and of pedagogies that support such development";[2] and

WHEREAS, standardized tests represent one form of assessment within a broader system of assessment types, and are designed to measure a student's knowledge and skills at a specific point in time; and they have been misused and overused for diagnostic, formative and summative purposes in American public schools since the passage of the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 and the testing expansions that occurred during the period of federal Race to the Top grants in the 2010s; and

WHEREAS, despite increased testing in public schools, academic performance gaps as measured by standardized tests remainunchanged since the Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954;[3] and

WHEREAS, extensive research demonstrates standardized testing has not escaped its shameful beginning of "intelligence tests" for military  fitness, which were designed to confirm beliefs of eugenics and racism[4] and continue to perpetuate the false premise that they objectively measure student achievement while retaining design practices (e.g., test question bias, use of a bell curve, test question difficulty­ setting practices, arbitrary raising of cut scores when students show success on state tests) that continue to perpetuate race and class inequality as their structures and designs are inextricably intertwined with social and economic inequalities that exist outside of schools;[5],[6],[7],[8] and

WHEREAS, the most recent accounting of state spending found 10 years ago that states spend $1.7 billion every year on standardized testing,[9] and in response, school districts have directed millions of local dollars and a countless number of instructional hours toward "benchmark" or "interim" tests and mandated test-prep activities, yet the information provided by these high-stakes tests has been misused, thus making them ineffectual in providing real and meaningful guidance to teachers, students and families;[10] and

WHEREAS, our country must recognize the harms that high-stakes standardized tests have inflicted over two decades to multiplestudent generations: stifling the joy of learning as districts demand test-prep activities and increase use of benchmark testing, whichleads to one-skill-at-a-time instruction despite lack of evidence of effectiveness;[11] devaluing teachers' curriculum-embedded assessment practices; tying student and teacher worth to test scores; firing teachers; disproportionately impacting Black and brown communities by closing public schools; instituting never-ending state takeovers/receivership policies; and privatizing public schools; and

WHEREAS, test prep has drained instructional time, student and teacher energy, and school funds from schools already underfunded and under-resourced, while also narrowing school curricula, stripping away teacher autonomy, eroding the love of teaching and learning, and fostering hostile, antagonistic school climates, particularly in schools serving Black and brown students and students from lower-income families;[12],[13],[14] and

WHEREAS, for more than 20 years, our nation has generated student, family, and educator stress and anxiety by administering high stakes, large-scale standardized tests to collect data, which has not improved teaching and learning conditions or equity; and

WHEREAS, the overreliance on lengthy standardized tests for accountability has been amply demonstrated to cause negative physicaland mental harms to students of all ages by inducing toxic stress, with these impacts being most profound among our mostvulnerable students, and contributing to the school-to-prison pipeline, as a test-prep culture undermines student engagement andincreases negative student behavior, thus leading to students, particularly students of color and those with disabilities, being pushed out of school, thereby increasing the likelihood for interaction with police and law enforcement;[15],[16],[17],[18] and

WHEREAS, students in special education are already subjected to additional progress monitoring and testing, which takes away from valuable learning time; and

WHEREAS, at least 27 states require schools to administer an English language proficiency screening assessment for students whose primary language is not English, and at least 24 states require students to demonstrate English language proficiency on a standardized test to be reclassified as English proficient, which they must take in addition to federally required reading and math tests;[19] and

WHEREAS, systemic inequities in public education have widened educational opportunity gaps, since students from disadvantaged groups are more likely to attend schools with far less funding and coursework offerings, experience significantly higher instructional hours devoted to test prep, and face increased threat of restructuring and/or closure and high teacher/principal turnover;[20] and

WHEREAS, vendors and education “reform” groups that are not comprised of educators have successfully pushed costly public school policies and products not based in research which attempt to “teacher proof” public education by directing scarce school funding toward large-scale standardized testing tied to narrow curriculum pacing guides rather than trust and invest in teachers' professional knowledge, skills and experience to design, deliver and reflect on culturally responsive curriculum, instruction and assessment; and

WHEREAS, at a time when public schools face greater challenges than ever, education privatizers have capitalized on the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic to change state laws to expand charter and voucher programs without safeguards to ensure students, families and taxpayers are protected from "discrimination, corruption and fraud" and, in 26 states, with no requirements for voucher students to take the same state tests as their public and charter school counterparts;[21] and

WHEREAS, our union strongly opposes the ways state and federal policymakers have misused standardized test data to shame, blame and close schools attended by some of America's most vulnerable students, and to fire teachers in ways that disparately impact teachers of color, especially Black teachers;[22] and

WHEREAS, our union does not oppose standardized testing when the data it generates is used appropriately to improve student learning, school programs, and other school and district continuous-improvement activities; and

WHEREAS, our union believes in humane, balanced assessment systems that include a comprehensive, coherent and continuous useof curriculum-embedded, unit-based formative and summative assessments in the classroom to better understand student learning,layered with appropriate school and district assessment systems, and state accountability tests to inform the overall educationalprocess:[23]

RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers will create a national assessment task force that will develop goals for changes to federal assessment requirements in the reauthorization of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to promotebalanced assessment systems, diminish overreliance on standardized tests, and address the harms ESSA has brought to teaching, learning and the privatization of public schools, as well as issues related to punitive measures such as receivership, whether by the state or other entities. In order to promote an aligned response and action, the AFT will provide supports and resources to state and local affiliates about ways to elevate teacher voice in decisions about learning and assessment to support the development of meaningful, culturally responsive, classroom-based assessment practices that promote balanced assessment systems and meaningful learning experiences for all students, and especially Black and brown students; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will connect with other national organizations, including groups representing families and students, which share the AFT's values on humane, balanced assessment systems and take concrete steps to create partnerships that lead to actions which dismantle testing regimes that have gone too far and are not helping support children's learning, but often lead to overly punitive sanctions on schools and educators; and

RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers will call on the U.S. Department of Education to call for changes to the federally mandated testing requirements to allow grade-span testing in lieu of grade-by-grade testing, and allowing locally determined screening and progress-monitoring assessments, that schools may already administer throughout the school year, to be used to meet federal mandates, and will work to include federal funding dedicated for professional learning on assessment in the next ESSA reauthorization; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will support and make available to affiliate unions and members union-developed, sustained,  job-embedded professional learning, such as the AFT course “Reclaiming Assessment,” which supports educators in elevating culturally responsive assessment practices that support high-quality instructional practices, providing classroom based, day-to-day learning feedback to students and educators; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will support state and local affiliates in advocating for pre-service and in-service professional learning experiences on assessment to support the elevation of teacher voice in the decision-making process as it relates to the best interests of children; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will support affiliate unions' advocacy to shift to state assessment policies that focus on what is important for learning rather than what is easily tested, by emphasizing the importance of more immediate, teacher-directed authentic assessments of student learning across all grades and subjects so that assessment is integrated into decision-making practices that are focused on student needs as a natural part of the teaching and learning cycle.



[1] Shepard, Lorrie A., Diaz-Bilello, E., Penuel, W. R., and Marion, S. F. (2020). Classroom assessment principles to support teaching and learning (policy brief). Center for Assessment, Design, Research and Evaluation, University of Colorado Boulder. Retrieved on June 7, 2022, from https://www.colorado.edu/cadre/sites/default/files/attached-files/classroom_assessment_principles_to_support_teaching_and_learning_-_final_0.pdf.

[2] Fleisher, Cathy, Filkins, S., Garcia, A., Mitchell Pierce, K., Scherff, L., Sibberson, F., and Daviset, M. (2013). Formative assessment that truly informs instruction (policy brief)National Council of Teachers of English. Retrieved on June 7, 2022, from https://cdn.ncte.org/nctefiles/resources/positions/formative-assessment_single.pdf.

[3] Hanushek, Eric, Peterson, P., Talpey, L., and Woessmann, L. (2019). The achievement gap fails to close: Half century of testing shows persistent divide between haves and have-nots (research study). Education Next. Retrieved on June 7, 2022, from http://hanushek.stanford.edu/publications/achievement-gap-fails-close-half-century-testing-shows-persistent-divide-between-haves.

[4] Meier, Deborah and Gasoi, E. (2018). These schools belong to you and me; Why we can’t afford to abandon our public schools(book)Beacon Press.

[5] Au, Wayne (2008). Unequal by design: High-stakes testing and the standardization of inequality (book). Routledge.

[6] Au, Wayne (2013). Hiding behind high-stakes testing: Meritocracy, objectivity and inequality in U.S. education (research study). The International Education Journal: Comparative Perspectives, 12(2), 7–19. Retrieved on June 7, 2022, from https://openjournals.library.sydney.edu.au/index.php/IEJ/article/view/7453/7812.

[7] Au, Wayne (2016). Meritocracy 2.0: High-stakes, standardized testing as a racial project of neoliberal multiculturalism (research study)Educational Policy, January 2016, v30 n1, 39-62. Retrieved on June 7, 2022, from https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0895904815614916.

[8] Berliner, David C. (2012). Effects of inequality and poverty vs. teachers and schooling on America’s youth (research review). Teachers College Record. Retrieved on June 7, 2022, from http://www.tcrecord.org/PrintContent.asp?ContentID=16889.

[9] Chingos, Matthew (2012). Strength in numbers: State spending on K-12 assessment systems (research report)Brown Center on Education Policy at Brookings. Retrieved on June 7, 2022, from https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/11_assessment_chingos_final_new.pdf.

[10] Zavitkovsky, Paul, Roarty, D., and Swanson, J. (2016). Taking stock: Achievement growth in Illinois under No Child Left Behind (policy brief). Chicago: Center for Urban Education Leadership, University of Illinois at Chicago. Retrieved on June 7, 2022, from https://education.illinoisstate.edu/downloads/csep/ISLAC-Final-Report.pdf.

[11] Slavin, Robert (2019). Benchmark assessments: Weighing the pig more often? (research review). Robert Slavin’s Blog. Retrieved on June 7, 2022, from https://robertslavinsblog.wordpress.com/2019/04/11/benchmark-assessments-weighing-the-pig-more-often/.

[12] Fair Test (2017). The case against high-stakes testing (policy/research review)The National Center for Fair and Open Testing. Retrieved on June 7, 2022, from https://www.fairtest.org/k-12/high%20stakes.

[13] Koretz, Daniel (2017). The testing charade: Pretending to make schools better (book). University of Chicago Press.

[14] Nelson, Howard (2013). Testing more, teaching less: What America’s obsession with student testing costs in money and lost instructional time (research report)American Federation of Teachers. Retrieved on June 7, 2022, from https://www.aft.org/sites/default/files/news/testingmore2013.pdf.

[15] Fair Test (2017). The case against high-stakes testing (policy/research review)The National Center for Fair and Open Testing. Retrieved on June 7, 2022, from https://www.fairtest.org/k-12/high%20stakes.

[16] Koretz, Daniel (2017). The testing charade: Pretending to make schools better (book). University of Chicago Press.

[17] Kohn, Alfie (2015). Schooling beyond measure & other unorthodox essays about education (book)Heinemann. Retrieved on June 7, 2022, from https://www.academia.edu/24493866/Kohn_A_2015_Schooling_beyond_measure_and_other_unorthodox_essays_about_education_Portsmouth_New_Hampshire_Heinemann_ISBN_978_0_325_07440_5_168_p_Soft_cover_26_73.

[18] Ravitch, Diane. (2010) The death and life of the great American school system: How testing and choice are undermining education (book)Basic Books.

[19] Rafa, Alyssa, Erwin, B., Brixey, E., McCann, M., and Perez Jr., Z. (2020) 50-state comparison: English learner policies (research report)Education Commission of the States. Retrieved on June 7, 2022, from https://www.ecs.org/50-state-comparison-english-learner-policies/.

[21] Burris, Carol and Cimarusti, D. (2022). Public schooling in America: Measuring each state’s commitment to democratically governed schools (research report)Network for Public Education. Retrieved on June 7, 2022, from https://www.scribd.com/document/570300930/Public-Schooling-Report-2022#from_embed.

[22] Albert Shanker Institute (2015). The state of teacher diversity in American education (research report)Albert Shanker Institute. Retrieved on June 7, 2022, from https://www.shankerinstitute.org/resource/teacherdiversity.

[23] Marion, Scott and Sheperd, L. (2021). The components of a balanced assessment system (presentation)Center for Assessment and California Collaborative for Educational Excellence. Retrieved on June 7, 2022, from https://vimeo.com/539432824.

(July 16, 2022)

 

(2022)

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.