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Atlanta Teacher Convictions: Do Standardized Testing Pressures Foster Cheating?

This story originally appeared in The Christian Science Monitor.

A jury convicted 11 educators of racketeering Wednesday for their role in the Atlanta cheating scandal. But nationally, there’s a strong split between those who see their actions as an aberration and those who would convict right alongside them the accountability systems that have attached increasingly high stakes to standardized tests in recent decades.

The teachers and administrators face potentially harsh sentences for a conspiracy to manipulate test scores – which investigators said involved more than 44 schools and about 180 educators. Eleven out of 12 who went to trial were convicted, and they were sent immediately to jail to await sentencing (with the exception of one who is pregnant).

For opponents of such high-stakes testing, there’s likely to be more sympathy for the educators because of undue pressures being placed on teachers by an overemphasis on test scores. But for proponents of accountability, it’s just as easy to hold up these educators as an example of why strong objective systems are needed to oversee and measure educators’ performance.

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