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Union leaders: Atlanta teacher cheating scandal caused by ‘our test-crazed policies’

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Sean Higgins,Politics Digest

Today, 35 Atlanta teachers are expected to turn themselves in on racketeering charges. They are alleged to have inflated students scores on standardized tests in exchange for awards and performances bonuses.

In a joint statement, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and Georgia Federation of Teachers President Verdaillia Turner said the teachers are not solely to blame. Rather, the scandal was a consequence of “test-crazed policies” to evaluate schools and teachers:

Here is the full statement emailed to reporters (All emphasis added):

We do not condone cheating under any circumstances. Academic achievement can never be separated from academic integrity, which is why the Georgia Federation of Teachers was the first whistle-blower to expose Atlanta testing irregularities.

Tragically, the Atlanta cheating scandal harmed our children and it crystallizes the unintended consequences of our test-crazed policies. Standardized tests have a role in accountability, but today they dominate everything else and too often don’t even correlate to what students need to know to succeed.

No amount of testing will replace what works to improve teaching and learning: giving teachers the resources and tools they need to be great teachers and providing students with a rich and well-rounded curriculum. Covering up kids’ academic deficiencies cheats students out of the targeted help they deserve.

It is outrageous that schools in some states are spending up to 100 days a year doing test-prep or actual testing. We have to re-order our priorities and move our schools from a test-based culture to one that is deeply rooted in instruction and learning, so that our kids can become engaged participants in the knowledge economy and our democracy.

School districts in Atlanta, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere placed enormous pressure on teachers to show improved scores, but the hard truth is that cheating on high-stakes testing doesn’t fix public schools or help kids. And even with this intense pressure, the vast majority of teachers do everything they can to help kids and never succumb to cheating. They know there are no shortcuts to success. Moving the needle requires a balanced approach that focuses on high-quality instruction; a rich curriculum; appropriate and useful assessments; and additional help and other resources like tutoring, after-school activities and social services to enable teachers and students to be successful.

UPDATE: Weingarten accused me on Twitter of not reporting that she also condemned the cheating in her press release.  After responding to another individual who goes by @Glittermic, who had tweeted regarding this blog post, Weingarten wrote back, saying: “#ShadyTeaching-sad that my condemnation of cheating not reported by @SeanGHiggins.”

As you can see, I posted the entire press release by Weingarten, so she is clearly wrong. (Presumably, she just never bothered to click the link on Twitter.) I  tweeted back to her, pointing this out. I’ll update if she bothers to respond.

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