If you are a parent with children in primary or secondary schools then you may be familiar with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the second largest teacher’s union in the United States. If you are a Black or low income parent in particular, then I would encourage you to pay special attention to the political games AFT plays to keep accountability out of the classroom. The AFT is on an aggressive track to totally mislead us about the important role balanced standardized testing can play to ensure every student can succeed.
Furthermore, to avoid accountability, the AFT are blaming the company who produces most of the tests our children take, Pearson Education. According to AFT, because of Pearson, public education is going to crash and burn.
So imagine how many of us were completely baffled with learning that the American Federation of Teachers’ (AFT) members have shares and is profiting from their so-called enemy Pearson PLC? So are we to believe that Pearson, the so-called big bad enemy of our country’s education system is supposedly destroying America’s youth, one standardized test at time?
Well, I’m not only baffled. But as a Black parent and consumer of public education, I’m insulted.
Talk about double standards and arrogance! Every school year, the AFT dismisses parents’ concerns about the lack of equitable access to high-quality educational options nationwide, yet they have the nerve to publicly call on Pearson to review their business practices.
I’d like to suggest AFT consider doing the same – a thorough review of their moral compass would be a great start, followed by some in-depth history lessons on who and what is actually to blame for America’s failing schools, especially as it relates to urban and low-income children.
The question, we as parents should be asking AFT is why are they choosing to target Pearson, a third party vendor, for the deteriorating quality of our education system? Surely one type of standardized test cannot be the sole contributor to the demise of our public education system. Especially when, in 2014, Pearson conducted a field test which included teachers and students from 14 states and the District of Columbia. After more than 100 teachers examined the quality of the test, and one million students took the test, adjustments were made and it was ready for distribution. More importantly, each state was able to decide whether they wanted to enter into a contract with Pearson, at which point, another team of local experts conducted their own assessment of the product before determining final approval. So again, Pearson is responsible for what, exactly?
Parents most in need of safe and high-quality educational options live in urban, rural and low-income communities that continue to be plagued with systemic failing school systems.
As a result, everyday parents are learning how to navigate the educational landscape and play the game because our children’s lives literally depend on it. We know educational companies like Pearson will continue to play a role in education; however, when we see our children struggling to read, as parents, we aren’t looking at Pearson to explain why they are struggling, we are asking questions of the experts– the teacher in front of the classroom and the principal who sets the tone of the school.
As education advocate Citizen Stewart states so bluntly:
“First, educational testing, like other forms of auditing our public institutions, is a way for the public to examine the actual data underlying an unequal society. If No Child Left Behind did any good, it was in disaggregating student data and laying bare the racialized educational outcomes that had previously been minimized…. We are a long-suffering people who have learned by experience what double standards can do to create social strife. We know that we have gaps in employment, wealth, law, and health. What we should be clear about is that most of those gaps are born out of the gaps in educational attainment…And, how do we know about all of those gaps? We know because we have data that comes from audits, assessments, and, yes, testing.”
Through research, I have learned, Pearson works to support higher learning across the globe, not just in the US. They have designed an evaluative measurement tool that will ensure students throughout the country are pushed toward a higher level of excellence and the ability to compete in a global economy.
On the other hand, it is clear the AFT is terrified of parents learning and understanding the important role balanced testing has played to bring attention to the accountability gap within low-income and high-needs schools. The bottom line is AFT does not want to hold their members, the teachers, accountable for some of the academic failure of our children. They would rather protect the jobs of ineffective teachers over ensuring adequate resources for the great teachers. Create distractions for parents to take the attention away from the shortcomings of their union and sometimes their members, and point fingers at those who are not in the classroom and have not sat idly by while Black children are continuing to fail at alarming rates. In case you weren’t aware, only 18% of Black 4th grade students can read and only 19% can compute on a proficient level in this country compared to 46% and 51% of white students respectively. It wasn’t Pearson who did that, but it was one of Pearson’s products that helped us discover the tragedy that is happening to our children every day who are not taught in high-quality environments by highly-qualified educators.
It was, in part, the test scores that taught us that we must hold teachers, and those who represent them, accountable for our children’s learning…or not learning. And while AFT may have more steam left in their fight to ensure our children do not achieve academic success, our parental fight has only just begun.
Parents are beginning to understand the power of data and as a result we are making more informed decisions on behalf of our children. We are owning our parent power. As a result, we as empowered parents, despite zip-code, have resolved that we will not negotiate the safety education and overall well- being of our children. In other words, we will never stop fighting on behalf of our children – Game On!