We've been fortunate enough to attend the last 3 NEA Representative Assemblies, where over 10,000 NEA members from all over the country gather to present and vote upon the Association's business, policies, resolutions, and ot elect its leaders.
This year, in Denver, after saying goodbye to ougoing NEA President Dennis Van Roekel, delegates elected an all-minority, all-female, officer team to lead it.
NEA Vice President Elect Becky Pringle (left), President Elect Lily Eskelsen García (center) and Secretary Treasurer Elect Princess Moss (right).
As historic as this is, delegates also broke with the past on the subject of Arne Duncan, the head of the Department of Education. At previous Representative Assemblies (RAs), delegates had debated, and voted upon, calling for his resignation. Those attempts were narrowly voted down.
This year, citing the U.S. Department of Education’s “failed education agenda focused on more high-stakes testing, grading, and pitting public school students against each other based on test scores, and for continuing to promote policies and decisions that undermine public schools and colleges, the teaching education professionals, and education unions.” - delegates voted to call for his resignation.
This shift is continued evidence of educators frustrations with the growing reliance on testing, and its negative impacts on students and teachers alike.
President-elect Eskelsen García told delegates, “For us, one thing is clear. Before anything is going to get better: It’s the Testing, Stupid. Better yet, it’s the stupid testing.” She called the accountability systems that Duncan has pushed “phony” and harmful to students, teachers and the teaching profession.
Delegates went further on the issues of test misuse, with their very first piece of business - overwhelmingly approving a "Campaign Against Toxic Testing".
NEA 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 and responsible forms of assessment and accountability.
Speaking of efforts from the likes of moviemakers, billionaire brothers, and conservative politicians who continue to pursue policies harmful to students, NEA President-Elect Lily Eskelsen García addressed Representative Assembly, “People who don’t know what they’re talking about are talking about increasing the use of commercial standardized tests in high-stakes decisions about students and about educators ... when all the evidence that can be gathered shows that it is corrupting what it means to teach and what it means to learn”.
One thing is clear, educators have had enough, and policy makers should expect to see increased resistance to high stakes testing run amok.