The American Federation of Teachers announced today it is expanding on their campaign “against excessive testing” called “Learning Is More Than a Test Score.” The campaign seeks to stop federal programs, especially No Child Left Behind, that test students in order to chart their progress and determine effectiveness of teachers. Unions have generally fought against using anything other than seniority as a benchmark of teacher skill. Thus, the irony: a major teachers union has come out foursquare against finding out whether American kids are indeed learning.
In a press release emailed to reporters (it is not currently online), AFT President Randi Weingarten said the union’s drive involves “de-emphasizing testing and ensuring instead that instruction includes the arts and physical education” among other benchmarks.
Public education should be obsessed with high-quality teaching and learning, not high-stakes testing. Tests have a role to play, but today’s fixation with them is undermining what we need to do to give kids a challenging and well-rounded education and to fairly measure teachers’ performance.
While testing is not without legitimate criticism – there have been numerous cases of cheating, for example – the “obsession” with it that Weingarten describes has happened because parents and lawmakers want to find out whether student are actually learning and what works and what doesn’t. It is becoming increasingly clear that the union-dominated public school model doesn’t work so well, which explains the growing exodus to charter schools.
That is something unions don’t like because those schools tend to be non-union. They even claim that the drive for testing is “ideologically and politically driven.” Trying to shutdown testing is back-door effort to prevent that exodus from public schools.