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United States: Unions opposed to test-driven education

The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) has called for an end to ‘America's fixation’ on high-stakes testing. The call was made at the EI affiliate’s national convention, held from 27-30 July in Detroit.


Declaring that high-stakes testing is denying children the rich, meaningful education they deserve, AFT delegates unanimously passed a resolution to ensure that tests inform, not impede, teaching and learning.

Teaching, not testing, central

"It's time to restore balance in our schools so that teaching and learning, not testing, are at the centre of education," said AFT President Randi Weingarten.

"Test-driven education policies continue to force educators to sacrifice time needed to help students learn to critically analyse content and, instead, focus on teaching to the test.”

AFT's resolution states that assessments should be focused on measuring growth and continuous development, instead of arbitrary targets unconnected to how students learn.

 “We believe in assessments that support teaching and learning, and align with the curriculum rather than narrow it; that are developed through collaborative efforts, not picked off a shelf,” reads the resolution.

Going in the wrong direction

Testing has played a larger role in US schools since the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, known as the No Child Left Behind Act, was signed into law by President Bush in 2001.

A growing number of states are using student test scores in evaluating educators. Moreover, exams are expected to play a larger role nationally with 46 states signing on to a common core curriculum that includes a common, computer-adaptive exam by 2015.

In June, nearly 23,000 parents, teachers and students signed an AFT’s petition demanding an end to high-stakes testing.

NEA opposition

Another EI affiliate in the US, the National Education Association (NEA), has also opposed the increasing emphasis on the standardised exams.

Indeed, a  National Resolution on High-Stakes Testing  was also endorsed by NEA affiliates last April. It calls on federal and state policymakers to reduce standardised test mandates and base school accountability on multiple forms of measurement.

“The overuse of standardised tests for high-stakes decisions has short-changed students, teachers and our education system in too many ways for far too long,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “We’ve lost sight of the reason tests were designed—to help gauge students’ comprehension and progress.”

EI support

EI firmly supports US educators, parents and students in their struggle against test-driven education and the misuse of standardised testing to gauge teaching standards. EI firmly believes that educators and education unions should lead the debate about defining quality and excellence in teaching.  

To see keynote speech at the AFT convention by Historian of education at New York University and best-selling author, Diane Kravitch please click here.


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