Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Comments on UFT High Stakes Testing Task Force



The members of the Task Force have done an excellent job of explaining the problems caused by high stakes tests. Speak-outs were held in each borough so that teachers, parents, and community members could voice their opinions on this issue. This was a great way for UFT members to be heard. ICE supports most of the recommendations, in particular the concept that the major purpose of standardized tests is that teachers should use them as a guide to make educational judgments about individual children. However, we do have a few reservations.


Unfortunately, the report does not call for an end to sanctions for schools that are deemed in need of improvement. This should be a priority. Schools don't improve by punishment; they improve with support and resources. The only legitimate function of NCLB is to identify areas of need and provide help.


The UFT must emphasize the role high stakes tests have in lowering rather than raising standards. By eliminating curriculum that doesn't appear on tests, "dumbing down" the actual exams, emphasizing tricks to get the right answer instead of mastering skills and knowledge, stifling creativity, fostering a cynical attitude toward learning, high stakes tests have the effect of providing an inferior education in both the short and the long run.


Expanding the role of the nationally based NAEP (the proficiency levels are set very high for the political purposes of bashing schools) as a random assessment can be mis-used by those calling for a nationally based high stakes test.


UFT members must know they will be supported by the UFT for speaking out against the over-use and, at times, abuse of testing in our schools. Teachers need whistle blower protection.


NOW we need a call to action. If NCLB is not changed, our schools will face more sanctions and will increasingly be turned into test prep factories. The Task Force report calls for forums for educators and meetings with the DOE, State Education Department, and the AFT. That is excellent. But now is also the time to activate UFT, AFT, and NEA members around the country to organize and let the politicians know that teachers do NOT support the reauthorization of NCLB in its present form. Ted Kennedy is Chair of the Committee that will reauthorize NCLB. At this time he does not support changing the high staking testing provisions in the Act. Senator Kennedy says he is a friend of our union and he spoke at last year's national AFT convention. Let's make sure he hears from us.


Issues to ponder: Will administrators continue getting bonuses for test scores? Will whistle blowers continue to be harassed and persecuted? Will the UFT refrain from political uses of the numbers game (i.e. trumpeting gains on tests to validate salary increases)? Will teachers who refuse to teach to the test face insubordination charges?


If you want to read and become more involved locally and nationally on these issues, here are a few resources.

ICE has set up a blog for the posting of articles and comments of interest at:


Time Out From Testing: NYC group against high stakes testing:

Fair Test, the national center for fair and open testing:

Rethinking Schools:

Susan Ohanian Susan is organizing a national teacher protest at the Educator Roundtable: Join almost 30,000 teachers who have already signed the petition.



Anonymous said...

Good report. This has always been an ICE issue. It is good to see the UFT moving in the ICE direction.

ed notes online said...

Where's Unity with their comments? Oh, why do they have to always be so negative with their comments on this site?

Their attacks on ICE has been that all we do is criticize and have no positive suggestions. So when we actually praise the leadership for doing something sort of right on an issue ICE has had on the front burner from day 1 -- and the purpose of our criticism has been to do just that -- wake them up --- and when we make positive suggestions, we hear nothing.

Next battle will be over their unwillingness to take a stand on mayoral control. It will take 3 years of a Bill Thompson administration before we can get teachers to realize that nothing all that much will be changed from BloomKlein.