Teachers hit over-reliance on testing

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DETROIT - The American Federation of Teachers will launch an all-out drive against school systems' overdependence on high-stakes testing as a measure of student progress, kicking off the campaign at the union's convention in Detroit in July.

The anti-testing drive comes after AFT's on-line petition against the practice gained more than 10,000 signatures, many from parents, in just two weeks in July.

"Parents and teachers agree it's time to put teaching ahead of testing so we can provide all children the rich, meaningful public education they deserve," AFT President Randi Weingarten said. "The balance is way off -- and as a result, test-driven education policies continue to force educators to sacrifice the time they need to help students learn to critically analyze content and, instead, focus on teaching to the test.

"We are depriving our children of the learning experiences they need in order to succeed in a 21st -century knowledge economy," she added.

The 1.5-million-member union's Executive Council approved the campaign to kill "teach to the test" in May. Both the AFT and the three-million-member National Education Association, the nation's other teachers union, strongly oppose over-reliance on testing as the sole measure of student progress - and school quality - under the 2001 No Child Left Behind law.

That law, pushed through Congress with Democratic cooperation by former GOP President George W. Bush, set enormously high standards for test passage rates for public schools - without the money to help teachers help kids achieve those results.

The unions have long maintained that NCLB was deliberately designed by Bush and other right-wingers to have public schools fail, so that taxpayer dollars could be yanked from them - and their teachers -- and given to private, usually religious, schools.

"I'm proud my 7th-graders read over 1,200 books this past school year," one signer, teacher Don Carlisto of Saranac Lake, N.Y., told the AFT. "But we are sacrificing time that could be spent on learning and promoting reading to focus on tests that too often are unreliable indicators of student performance, of poor quality, and full of errors."

At its convention, in early July in D.C., the NEA also opposed the high-stakes tests. It wants administrators, politicians, and test developers to improve "public school accountability systems...based on fair testing standards promulgated by experts." States and school districts, NEA adds, should "develop systems" to evaluate schools and students "based on multiple forms of evidence of student learning that do not require extensive standardized testing (and) are used to support all students and improve schools, and not for purposes for which they have not been validated."

Photo: CAPL - ESL // CC

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