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Mulgrew: Federal bill would reduce high-stakes testing

New York Teacher

UFT President Michael Mulgrew informed the April 15 Delegate Assembly of developments at a federal level that could provide long-term relief for students and educators fed up with high-stakes testing.

Mulgrew shared news of a bipartisan effort by federal lawmakers to overhaul No Child Left Behind and move away from the harmful emphasis on high-stakes testing in favor of a more balanced approach that targets educational inequality.

The bill reflects an unusual alliance of Republican lawmakers who see the Common Core Learning Standards as a federal intrusion on local decision-making and Democratic lawmakers who oppose the use of standardized tests to sanction teachers and schools.

If it passes, “the federal government will no longer mandate that testing be used for teacher evaluations in the United States,” Mulgrew said.

The AFT, with the UFT’s support, has lobbied hard for the compromise legislation, Mulgrew said. Mulgrew noted that, no matter who is the governor, federal funding and teacher evaluations are tied to high-stakes testing under the current law.

“The real problem we needed to attack first and foremost was the federal law,” Mulgrew said.

Under the proposed legislation, he explained, the federal government would no longer mandate sanctions for struggling schools; states would have more flexibility on learning standards; and the federal government would no longer require that test scores be used as a factor in teacher evaluations. Also under the bill, English language learners would have three years — up from one under current law — before they had to take the standardized tests, he said.

While the federal government still would require yearly testing, the results could be used only as a guide to see how students are faring. “This is the game changer,” Mulgrew said.

The meeting began with a moment of silence for Philip Sylvester, a former UFT interim acting District 75 representative, who died recently.