Saturday, April 2, 2016

American Federation of Teachers and Pearson Make Strange Bedfellows

(Luis Valentino) The new testing cycle begins across the more than 98,000 schools in the United States, generating familiar questions.  Are states still implementing PARCC or SBAC?  Will schools and districts opt-out? Will families demand an opt-out option for their children?    And as teachers continue to fight for less testing and more time to their students, these questions will continue to lead the conversation.

But now, a new and unexpected question has made its way into the spotlight.  Why is the American Federation of Teachers (AFT)  interested in Pearson improving its profits?  Well, it appears that the AFT and Pearson are strange bedfellow. The AFT has investments in Pearson, and is seeking improvements in their financial positions.  This presents an interesting dilemma for the AFT and its members.  I don't know about you, but it seems that the AFT now need to figure a way to explain its relationship, while it continues to bash its partner.

"The New Mexico Public Education Department, which introduced the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers test last year, slammed the AFT for its financial ties to the company."  (Albuquerque Journal, April 1, 2016)

“It is the very height of hypocrisy for the union to publicly bash an organization, yet gladly take their money behind closed doors,” PED spokesman Robert McEntyre wrote in an emailed statement. “The union’s actions are stunning, and it tells you everything you need to know about this special interest group.”(Albuquerque Journal, April 1, 2016)

As an educator, I have never been a big fan of high-stakes testing, believing that the biases built into these tests cannot be neutralized, and therefore,  limits their ability to inform on students' progress.  There are more authentic ways of assessing students that are more sustainable and progressive.  Most educators have similar philosophical belief about this that is informed by their experiences in education as teachers, administrators, and leaders, as well as their understanding of how people develop and achieve best.  Such positions are context neutral, and not subject to the situation or conditions. Therefore, it is not a matter of convenience.  The relationship between AFT and Pearson should raise questions.  The organization represents thousands of members, and I'm sure they'd like to better understand the relationship.

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