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Demanding End to 'Toxic Testing,' Teachers Call for Duncan's Resignation

Nation's largest union of public school teachers say Secretary of Education is guilty of pushing 'test prep factories' that have 'reached the point of insanity'

The National Education Association Called for Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to resign on Friday (Photo: flickr/cc/Center for American Progress).

The National Education Association (NEA) has approved a national campaign to roll back the “test blame and punish” policies that have dominated education policy in recent decades and have called for the resignation of Arne Duncan, the Secretary of Education, who the union says has spearheaded the Obama administration's "toxic testing" push.

“The testing fixation has reached the point of insanity,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel in a statement put out by the group. “Whatever valuable information testing mandates provided have been completely overshadowed by the enormous collateral damage inflicted on too many students. Our schools have been reduced to mere test prep factories and we are too-often ignoring student learning and opportunity in America.”

Adopted at the NEA's annual convention in Denver just before the holiday weekend, the proposal itself also stated that "the Department's failed education agenda focused on more high-stakes testing, grading and pitting public school students against each other based on test scores" are the reasons the group is calling for the secretary's resignation. Duncan has been the driving force behind the implementation of such policies under President Obama.

“The sad truth is that test-based accountability has not closed the opportunity gaps between affluent and poor schools and students,” added Van Roekel. “It has not driven funding and support to the students from historically underfunded communities who need it most. Poverty and social inequities have far too long stood in the way of progress for all students.”


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While similar proposals against the high-stakes testing mantra have appeared in the past, this is the first one to pass and was notably brought to the floor by the powerful California affiliate of the association. A controversial ruling in the state last month which Duncan supported seems to have deepened an already tense relationship between the White House and the NEA.

As the Associated Press reports:

A tipping point for some members was Duncan's statement last month in support of a California judge's ruling that struck down tenure and other job protections for the state's public school teachers. In harsh wording, the judge said such laws harm particularly low-income students by saddling them with bad teachers who are almost impossible to fire.

While the vote signifies a growing opposition to the standardized education policies started under President Bush and continued under President Obama, it's not clear that Duncan's resignation would actually mean a change in the direction of federal education policy. As popular education policy analyst Diane Ravitch noted on her blog, "teachers would be thrilled to see one of the worst Secretaries of Education go away, but would we get someone worse?... What does it say about Obama that his likely choice would have to be acceptable to DFER, Stand on Children, Bill Gates, Eli Broad, and the other reformers?"

Concerning the NEA vote and the White House's frayed relationship with public school educators overall, Duncan said Monday: “We agree on many issues. We disagree occasionally. I don’t get caught up in union politics.”


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