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Did the UFT change its position on testing?

May 13, 2015 am31 7:39 am

Probably not. But we should not gloss over the formal shift.

In this week’s NY Teacher there is a brief report on the April 15 UFT Delegate Assembly:

The first resolution, introduced by Vice President for Academic High Schools Janella Hinds, articulated the union’s view on the role of testing in public education. The resolution voiced the UFT’s support for the right of parents to opt their child out of state tests, called on the state to break Pearson’s monopoly on testing and condemned Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to increase the weight of standardized tests in teacher evaluation, among other things. (Resolutions: Delegates approve resolution on proper use of assessments)

The full text of the resolution, as passed, is here on the UFT website.

But there’s something missing.

As originally written, the resolution said that tests were good for rating teachers and schools.

RESOLVED, that the UFT affirms its support of standards and its support of multiple measures to assess student progress, evaluate teachers and gauge the success of schools;

The resolution was introduced at the March 7 UFT Executive Board. New Action moved to strike “evaluate teachers” and Unity sent up several speakers to argue against the amendment, and defeated it. (It would be easy to add “overwhelmingly” since Unity controls all but ten of the 102 votes, but there were clearly some who quietly chose not to vote).

But at the Delegate Assembly a few weeks later, I moved to strike “evaluate teachers and gauge the success of schools.” There was another proposed amendment (changing “standardized assessments” to “state-mandated assessments,” shifting both meaning and tone). I saw LeRoy Barr move from the podium to the floor of the meeting hall – usually a sign that he would take the mike to speak against. A Unity loyalist whispered to me that it was a good amendment, but that it would be voted down. But after some discussion, I saw that LeRoy returned to the podium. They changed their minds? Sure enough, the amendment went through, either unanimously or close to it.

What happened?  Mulgrew was touting the new Federal Legislation that would stop mandating sanctions for schools with low test scores, and stop forcing states to rate teachers based on student test scores. It would be hard to favor such changes, if the union maintained its traditional stance that said that test scores should be part of rating teachers and schools. In fact, a delegate asked if the amendment was just echoing the federal change. Also, Unity has been taking heat for helping bring in the lousy evaluation system. And the DA was during state testing, and Unity was taking heat for opposing MORE’s opt out resolution. They stepped aside.

It’s not a small thing. The largest teachers’ local in the country dropped its official support for using tests to rate teachers. The Delegate Assembly said that we do not support using “multiple measures” to”evaluate teachers and gauge the success of schools.”

The DA coverage in the New York Teacher omits that the Delegates don’t want multiple measures used to rate teachers and schools. It is easier (not easy) to delete language from a resolution. It’s another thing to change policy, on the ground. We have not seen any change in practice.



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