Policy: Labor

Teachers union head claims higher scores show tests should be dumped

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Beltway Confidential,Education,Sean Higgins,Labor unions,Labor,Analysis,Teachers,Teachers Unions

U.S. students made modest progress in math and reading, according to the 2013 National Assessment of Education Progress.

This progress was cited as proof by American Federation of Teachers Randi Weingarten that the whole assessment process should be junked.

The assessment tested 377,000 fourth-graders and 343,000 eighth-graders. It found the fourth graders scored 242 out of 500 in math, up one point from 2011, while reading scores were flat. The eight graders scored 285 on math, up one point, and 268 on reading, up two points.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called the scores "encouraging," though short of the higher hopes for the testing. Weingarten had an entirely different take:

While we continue to see modest gains on NAEP scores, we have a long way to go to close the equity gap for children from low-income families. The current test-based, austerity-driven education environment has failed to provide the supports that all children -- and especially poor children -- need to reach their full potential.

Why is Weingarten so down on testing? Perhaps because the testing is used to evaluate teachers and anything that can show which teachers are doing a good job and which aren't is a threat to union power.

In fact, the places that did the best were Washington, D.C., and Tennessee, which have been experimenting with reforms that unions oppose, like charter schools and firing low-performing teachers.

As the Wall Street Journal noted: "Tennessee and Washington, D.C., -- as well as schools on military bases -- the only ones achieving statistically significant gains on all tests.

"Washington gained a cumulative 23 points since 2011, while Tennessee posted a 22-point jump -- both compared with a 4-point national gain."

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