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Please, Ms. Weingarten: No Excuses for the Cheating Scandal

Randi Weingarten missed an opportunity to come down squarely for integrity and to place the blame for the Atlanta cheating scandal where it belongs    -- on the administrators and teachers who allegedly participated in inflating kids’ scores.  Instead she diverted a good part of the blame to the usual suspects – obsession with standardized tests and lack of “resources and tools” teachers need.

To be fair, the statement released by Weingarten and Verdaillia Turner, president of the Georgia Federation of Teachers started out right. “We do not condone cheating under any circumstances.  Academic achievement can never be separated from academic integrity …, “ the statement read.  Unfortunately, from there it meandered into other reasons for the scandal besides personal greed and dishonesty.  Instead, No-cheating-480 cheating turns out to be the “unintended consequences” of frequent and high stakes testing and lack of training.  The only excuse that didn’t appear was that lucrative incentives for improved test scores might compromise basic honesty.

I understand the role of the union when members run amok.  Even when personally repulsed or angered by members’ behaviors, the union chief is required to protect each member’s rights.  That’s why members pay their dues.  That’s how the system works.

But here was an opportunity to raise the status of the teaching profession with a no-excuses stand.  Yes, we know that currently testing seems to be the most important thing that happens in schools.  Yes, we understand that test prep isn’t the same as teaching.  Of course we recognize that the money spent on testing could have been better spent on training and materials.  But – in the end, our profession doesn’t tolerate cheaters. 

There is little question that the situation in Atlanta (and in Washington, D.C.) encouraged cheating.  And as I noted last week, these are not the only two school districts in the nation in which cheating occurs.  But whatever the circumstances, it’s a personal choice to cheat or not to cheat.  Towards the end of the news release Weingarten does finally note that “the vast majority of teachers do everything they can to help kids and never succumb to cheating.”  A little hyperbole there, but the point is that the most teachers and administrators don’t do what the Atlanta folks allegedly did.  That’s the story.  Atlanta isn’t the norm; it’s the aberration.  And that’s how Weingarten should have presented it – that teaching is an honorable profession that would never ever countenance that kind of behavior whatever the circumstances.  Instead, while insisting that the union doesn’t tolerate cheaters, she also noted that it wasn’t, after all, entirely their fault.  You can’t have it both ways.  The profession deserved better.







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