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NCLB Outrages

Tough Talk on Testing: Texas AFT Launches "Reclaim Your Classroom" Drive, While AFT Warns Congress Had Better "Get it Right" on NCLB Reform

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AFT Legislative Hotline

Reclaim Your Classroom: Texas AFT today launched a campaign to begin monitoring testing in schools to ensure that instructional time isn't lost to an overemphasis on testing.

"We're telling teachers, parents and students that it's time to reclaim your classroom as a place for real learning, inspiration and creativity," said Linda Bridges, Texas AFT president. "It's time to reclaim your classroom as a place that isn't judged solely by TAKS tests and isn't bogged down in the drudgery of endless test preparation. It's time to reclaim your classroom as a place where students receive the help they need to succeed, rather than confusing and sometimes arbitrary determinations of success and failure."

Texas AFT is distributing "Reclaim Your Classroom Test Watch" cards in schools across the state and on the internet so that teachers, parents and students can track how much time is spent on testing--including standardized tests like TAKS. The cards also track the inordinate amount of time spent preparing for and even developing tests.

"More than half of the teachers surveyed told us they're spending more than 50 percent of their class time on testing, and a large majority note that testing is taking away valuable instruction time and hurting other course work," Bridges said. "That's just insane, and we've got to start putting the pressure on local officials, state lawmakers and Congress to change our testing system now."

Bridges noted that Texas AFT's work in the past on reforming the testing system has produced notable results. For example, state Senate Bill 1031--passed last spring--bans the use of more than 10 percent of instructional days for district-mandated tests for any student in grades subject to standardized testing. District testing does not include the TAKS test, but it does include the often time-intensive benchmark testing.

"Our Test Watch Team members will be our eyes and ears on campuses across the state to make sure that administrators are complying with the recent law limiting district testing," Bridges said.

Why is now the time to reclaim our classrooms? Texas AFT began the movement to change testing in Texas in 2005, after it heard from scores of member teachers that the current testing system is destroying educational opportunities for our schoolchildren. Surveys of teachers confirmed the anecdotal evidence, and Texas AFT learned that more than half of all teachers spend more than half their time preparing for and taking standardized tests. Some 87 percent said that the TAKS test resulted in a significant loss of instructional time. More than 93 percent reported the quality of education had dropped in subjects not tested by TAKS.

In response, Texas AFT formed a task force to develop a detailed plan for reform, including three simple action steps:

1. Give students credit for the progress they make, instead of penalizing them for not meeting accountability standards based on tests that don't accurately measure growth in student achievement.

2. Eliminate the confusion and contradictions between state and federal accountability systems. Currently, a school campus can be rated unacceptable on the federal level and acceptable on the state level, or vice versa.

3. Restore the authority for test preparation to teachers and ensure the appropriate use of standardized testing as a diagnostic tool that helps focus resources where they are needed.

To learn more about "Reclaim Your Classroom" visit http://www.texasaft.org

AFT Tells Congress–Get it Right on NCLB Reform: Today Ed McElroy, president of the 1.4-million-member American Federation of Teachers, warned U.S. House members that they are on the verge of passing a sloppy rewrite of the No Child Left Behind Act that is actually worse than current law. Here's his blunt-spoken advice to Congress:

"The American Federation of Teachers has listened for years to our members and others tell us what they think of the No Child Left Behind Act. In more than five years, not a single parent, educator or student has demanded that Congress rush a revised bill through the reauthorization process without taking appropriate steps to get it right. Nevertheless, that is exactly what the U.S. House of Representatives is poised to do.

"The House education committee is rushing forward at reckless speed, and, if this keeps up, the result is going to be a sloppy law that is worse than the current law. It is clear from the just-released discussion draft that lawmakers have a lot of work to do before anyone can say they have gotten it right.

"AFT members have had five and a half years of experience with the No Child Left Behind Act. During that time, good schools have been stigmatized by the law's unfair and unscientific 'adequate yearly progress' measure. Teachers have faced increasing pressure to teach to the test, and students have learned less history, science, art and music. Struggling schools have received punitive sanctions instead of needed help. Tens of millions of dollars in No Child Left Behind have gone to private tutoring companies with unqualified employees and no reliable data that demonstrates they are effective.

"Our students deserve a law that is carefully considered. The proposed timetable will make it impossible for lawmakers, most of whom are just seeing the language for the first time, to ensure that what is done in Washington makes sense in our nation's classrooms.

"Two years ago, AFT launched our 'Let's Get It Right' campaign to make sure that NCLB's reauthorization would be done the right way, with real input from teachers, parents, and others who care about our students and their education. Last year, our members and the entire labor movement spent countless hours to help elect and re-elect representatives we thought respected the parents and teachers who say Congress needs to fix this law.

"We hope these members will take the time to get it right–and not just to put a check mark next to a bad bill and say, 'Done.'"

— AFT Legislative Hotline
Texas AFT Hotline


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