The president of the National Education Association Wednesday called for a massive reduction in the amount of student testing and predicted accountability systems based on such assessments “will crumble.”
Dennis Van Roekel, president of the 3 million-member NEA, told a handful of reporters (and several dozen cheering members), “This entire accountability system that’s based on tests will crumble. It’s not a question of if. It’s a question of when.”
The NEA’s representative assembly is being held in Denver this week for four days of elections, voting on resolutions and deciding on union initiatives for the upcoming year.
Testing, which has come under increasing criticism from state and national teacher groups in the last year, is expected to be a major topic of discussion.
One agenda item proposes creation of a “NEA Campaign Against Toxic Testing” that “will conduct a comprehensive campaign to end the high stakes use of standardized tests, to sharply reduce the amount of student and instructional time consumed by tests, and to implement more effective forms of assessment and accountability.” (Read about full proposal here.)
Van Roekel pounded on those themes Wednesday, saying testing “has failed the children of America” and “I don’t need five more years of the same results to show me which students aren’t getting what they need.”
Criticism of the Common Core State Standards and testing also is on the rise among conservative groups. Asked if the liberal NEA might make common cause with such groups on testing, Van Roekel avoided answering.
The NEA is the nation’s largest teachers union. Its affiliates represent most of Indiana’s teachers. Nearly 9,000 people started gathering last week for the annual meeting, attending a variety of events including special-interest caucuses, committee business meetings and state delegation sessions, plus service and educational events.
The business portion of the meeting kicks off in earnest Thursday when the NEA’s representative assembly digs into business items, constitutional amendments and – starting Friday – election of officers. Van Roekel is ending his term, so a new president will be elected. Those sessions run through Sunday. (See agenda here.)
The resolutions could take some time. The table of contents for proposed resolutions runs to more than nine pages by itself, not counting proposal texts. (See the full set here.)
The teachers unions’ annual summer conventions come at a time of increasing pressure on the groups. (The smaller American Federation of Teachers holds its convention in Los Angeles starting July 11.)
EdWeek on Wednesday posted a set of graphics showing the changing membership, finances and other stats about the two groups. A recent article on Politico concluded, “As the two big national teachers unions prepare for their conventions this summer, they are struggling to navigate one of the most tumultuous moments in their history.”
(This story was reported by Chalkbeat Colorado, which is covering the NEA meetings in Denver this week.)