DAVID N. GOODMAN
DETROIT (AP) — The nation's second-largest teachers union has taken a stand against high-stakes testing, passing a resolution at its annual convention in Detroit that says the focus on standardized tests has undermined the United States' education system.
The American Federation of Teachers approved the resolution unanimously Saturday on the second day of its convention at Cobo Center. It said testing should be used to inform and not to impede classroom instruction.
"A lot of so-called reformers try to dictate top-down, standardized test-driven strategies that are heavy on competition and short on evidence and resources," AFT President Randi Weingarten told the 2,400 delegates in her opening address. "They don't work.
"What does work is to rely on the professional judgment of millions of educators who have devoted their lives to educating America's children in our public schools," she added.
Instead of basing teacher evaluations on the results of standardized tests, schools use multiple measures to assess teacher performance and focus on helping them improve throughout their careers, Weingarten said. She touted such a system worked out by administrators and teachers in the schools in New Haven, Conn.
"It's a far cry from the shaming and sanctioning of teachers based on a single test score," she said Friday.
Vice President Joe Biden echoed the theme in his address Sunday evening, telling the delegates that they and their colleagues are professionals who "can teach with passion and not to a test."
Biden was introduced by his wife, Jill Biden, a community college teacher.
In a 40-minute talk bookended by standing ovations and chants of "four more years," the vice president said Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney doesn't treat public education as a priority. Romney distrusts the hardworking teachers who struggle to create opportunity for the nation's young people, Biden said.
Biden painted Romney as planning to gut education funding to finance tax breaks for the wealthy.
From what Romney and his GOP rivals said during the primary debates, "it looks like they don't think public education is worth the investment," Biden said. Overall, the GOP has made a significant move to the right, he said.
"This is not your father's Republican Party," Biden said. "I am not questioning their motives, but I am questioning their judgment."
Romney backs Republican budget plans to slash spending on the Head Start preschool program, as well as grants and loans for college students, Biden said.
In a Republican response to Biden's talk, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder said in a statement that efforts to fix his state's economy have been hampered by President Barack Obama's enlargement of the national debt and imposition of new regulations and taxes.
The AFT, which represents Detroit's public school teachers, represents 1.5 million teachers nationwide. The nation's largest teachers union is the 3.2 million-member National Education Association.
United Auto Workers President Bob King spoke to the group Saturday, criticizing right-wing politics that he said have reduced funding for schools, cut support services and let class sizes grow, the Detroit Free Press reported.
"And then they turn around and they try to vilify teachers for not doing a great job in educating our kids," King said.
In her remarks, Weingarten predicted that two years from now, the union would look back on 2012 as a time "of existential threat" that it was able to transform into "a time of renewed respect."Tags: