More than 30 Atlanta public school teachers are expected to turn themselves in today after being indicted last week on charges of racketeering. As we reported, the teachers are alleged to have been involved in an organized effort to inflate and falsify students' scores on standardized tests. According to prosecutors, some of the monetary bonuses were based on the students' scores and now the teachers are facing up to 20 years in jail.
But you can't just put the blame on the teachers, right? -- at least that's what the teachers unions are saying.
In a joint statement released Tuesday, leaders of the American Federation of Teachers and the Georgia Federation of Teachers said that they don't condone cheating, but such crimes are "unintended consequences" of "test-crazed policies."
Here's their full statement:
"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."