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A Letter From Randi Weingarten

Saturday morning, the Obama White House and the Department of Education acknowledged that the obsession with high-stakes testing has gone too far, and admitted their own policies helped drive the problem.

Yes, it’s just a beginning. But it is a huge step. And it happened because educators and parents spoke up until the White House listened.

The White House has promised new guidance on testing by January—and we’re asking them to listen to stakeholders as they craft a solution.

Testing should help inform instruction, not drive instruction. We need to get back to focusing on the whole child—teaching our kids how to build relationships, how to be resilient and how to think critically. We need to celebrate improvement and the joy of learning, not sanction based on high-stakes standardized tests.

It’s a big deal that the president and the secretaries of education—both current and future—are saying that they get it and are pledging to address the fixation on testing in tangible ways. Yes, the devil is in the details, but today it’s clear: Parents, students and educators, your voice matters and you were heard. 

It’s up to Congress to fix No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and get rid of the worst impacts of testing, but the Department of Education can make a big difference right away. The department’s policies—from Race to the Top and NCLB waivers to impending teacher prep policy—play a significant role in driving the testing fixation, and they can play a big role in changing the role of tests while we work with Congress to fix the law.

The fixation on testing hasn’t moved the needle on student achievement, and Americans can see it’s time to get back to focusing on teaching and learning.

That’s why overwhelming numbers of Americans think there is too much testing, as seen in the recent Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll, and it’s why legislators on both sides of the aisle want to fix NCLB, a law that drove overtesting and school closings.

As we work with Congress to fix NCLB, we need to ensure that the new guidelines from the administration take parent, student and educator voice seriously.

Sign our petition to President Obama and the Department of Education, and help us reclaim the joy of teaching and learning in our classrooms.

In unity,

Randi Weingarten
AFT President

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