Saying that “America’s public school accountability system must be re-examined and rebuilt,” the executive council of the American Federation of Teachers has recommend its own resolution against “the current test-and-punish accountability model.”
All children deserve a rich, meaningful public education that prepares them for the opportunities, responsibilities and challenges that await them as they become contributing members of a democratic society. Growing our nation’s future citizens and workers is a serious undertaking that calls for a thoughtful focus on teaching and learning. Since the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act, the growing fixation on high-stakes testing has undermined that focus, putting at grave risk our students’ learning and their ability to meet the demands of the 21st century economy and fulfill their personal goals.
The current generation of low-level, high-stakes tests—and their extreme misuse as a result of ideologically and politically driven education policy—has not improved our schools. Indeed, several studies have shown the exact opposite: test-based rewards and sanctions for schools have slowed our progress in narrowing the achievement gap and have diverted attention away from many other important educational goals.
Appropriate assessments are an integral part of a high-quality public education. By contrast, the current test-and-punish accountability model has seriously damaged public education. We have lost vital parts of the curriculum because they are not subject to testing. Student learning time has been sacrificed in favor of testing and test preparation. Teachers have been led to focus their attention on the students closest to passing the tests, at the expense of developing every student’s full potential. All of this has stifled teachers’ ability to develop all students’ capacity to think deeply, critically and creatively, and has driven many talented teachers from classrooms that desperately need them. This loss has been especially pronounced in the schools and classrooms serving America’s neediest children, adding further insult to the injury of poverty and other social challenges.
Read the rest of the resolution here.
AFT’s president, Randi Weingarten, also a member of the Democratic National Committee, has recently been under fire for being to close to the Democratic Party and doing enough to serve the interests of public education. Passage of this resolution may assuage the anger of her critics.