The teacher union’s love-hate relationship with testing

Chantal Lovell

Communications Director

Chantal Lovell
August 6, 2021

The teacher union’s love-hate relationship with testing

Testing for thee, but not for me.

That’s the message sent to parents by the United Teachers Los Angeles. In its latest demonstration of epic irony, the union is demanding all 600,000 students subject to its reign be tested weekly for COVID-19 in order to return to the classroom, while simultaneously lobbying the district to eliminate academic tests that would reveal just how poor a job this union is doing educating students.

After holding out for months and extracting a bevy of concessions from taxpayers, the union finally agreed to return to the classroom in two weeks, but only if certain conditions are met, including mandating that every student and staff member produce a negative COVID test to be allowed on campus. Concerns that labs will be unable to meet the unprecedented demand are causing parents to worry that this requisite in particular could prove untenable, and ultimately, prevent the promised reopening.

This week, a small school within the district reopened, and parent watchdog group UTLA Uncensored reported that half the students were turned away on their would-be first day because labs had not evaluated their samples in a timely manner. The scenario raises questions about what will happen in two weeks, when approximately 675,000 students and staff are being tested each week.

“If getting COVID tests back on time was a struggle when only a handful of charter schools opened and certainly was a struggle this past winter, what happens when all of LAUSD schools open and a large number of these tests are not returned,” Jonathan Zachreson, leader of Reopen California Schools asked in an article he authored explaining the extent of the looming, logistics nightmare. “It’s very possible tens of thousands, if not over a hundred thousand, of students don’t get timely test results. What then?”

According to Zachreson’s research, UTLA’s requirement will increase testing demand in the county by 192 percent, and the district will have to swab 346 students and staff a minute just to keep up. LAUSD’s Chief Communications Officer Shannon Haber told CPC that test results will be turned around within 24 hours, but would not address the district’s contingency plan for what seem like inevitable delays.

Only time will tell, since the district won’t.

While COVID tests don’t scare the UTLA, there does appear to be one type of test that makes them nervous: scholastic tests. The union continues to lobby against tests that would reveal the extent of their refusal to educate children. Throughout bargaining negotiations, the union has pushed LAUSD to stop testing students, and successfully got the district to scrap the benchmark tests for the past two school years. Teachers unions even compelled Sacramento to pass a new law allowing parents to change students’ D and F grades to “pass” or “no pass.” Together, these push their neglect of duty under the proverbial rug.

But, even with the union’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy regarding student achievement, we do have some idea how students are faring, and how much the union-induced school closures set them back. New research by McKinsey & Company found students were, on average, four months behind in reading and five months behind in math. Minority students and those from low-income families fell even further behind. Unfortunately, this data is an “optimistic scenario” because it was derived from students that were on campus in the spring, when most California kids were still locked out.

Perhaps the union itself is the best judge of student success. In a recent interview, UTLA President Cecily Myart-Cruz shed light on her union’s terrible outcomes, while also revealing the true reason she’s so opposed to evaluating students. “People want to talk about learning loss and I want to say, ‘you can’t lose what you never had.’”

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