Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, blamed "test-crazed" education policies in sharp comments released Tuesday regarding a massive standardized-test cheating scandal in Atlanta.
A 65-count indictment, announced by prosecutors Friday, alleges that more than 35 educators were involved in a conspiracy to inflate students' test scores within Atlanta Public Schools.
In a joint statement Tuesday, Weingarten and Verdaillia Turner, president of the Georgia Federation of Teachers, declared, "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." They added that school districts in Atlanta, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere have put "enormous pressure" on teachers to improve scores.
As the first of the indicted educators surrendered Tuesday, critics of standardized-testing policies are describing the alleged misdeeds in Atlanta as a natural reaction to this pressure.
In a blog post published Monday, David Callahan, editor of Cheatingculture.com, blamed an excessive focus on quantitative performance measures and called the scandal the human answer to the question, "What happens when you change incentives so that low test numbers translate into pain and high test numbers translate into awards?"
The Associated Press reports that a 21-month-long investigation -- including hundreds of interviews with school administrators, students, parents and teachers -- brought out stories of teachers artificially inflating test scores for their own purposes.
In one case, a third-grader failed a benchmark exam but passed another standardized test "with flying colors" in the same year. Now in the ninth grade, the student reads at a fifth-grade level.
"I have a 15-year-old now who is behind in achieving her goal of becoming what she wants to be when she graduates. It's been hard trying to help her catch up," Justina Collins, the girl's mother, said at a news conference, according to AP.
In her comments, Weingarten, who has vocally opposed standardized testing in the past, stopped short of excusing the teachers but asked whether schools are spending too much time preparing students for the tests.
Read the full release below.
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.
Also on HuffPost:
Alabama State Capitol (Montgomery, Ala.)
Pictured on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2012. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)
Alaska State Capitol (Juneau, Alaska)
Pictured on Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2011. (AP Photo/Chris Miller)
Arizona State Capitol (Phoenix)
Pictured on Friday, April 23, 2010. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
Arkansas State Capitol (Little Rock, Ark.)
Pictured on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)
California State Capitol (Sacramento, Calif.)
Pictured on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2006. (Photo by David Paul Morris/Getty Images)
Colorado State Capitol (Denver)
Pictured on Thursday, Oct. 26, 2006. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Connecticut State Capitol (Hartford, Conn.)
Pictured on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 1999. (AP Photo/Bob Child)
Delaware State Capitol (Dover, Del.)
Florida State Capitol (Tallahassee, Fla.)
Pictured on Monday, Jan. 3, 2011. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Georgia State Capitol (Atlanta)
Pictured on Tuesday, November 13, 2007. (Photo by Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)
Hawaii State Capitol (Honolulu)
Idaho State Capitol (Boise, Idaho)
Pictured on Monday, Jan. 14, 2008. (Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)
Illinois State Capitol (Springfield, Ill.)
Pictured on Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2004. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)
Indiana State Capitol (Indianapolis)
Pictured on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2012. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Iowa State Capitol (Des Moines, Iowa)
Pictured on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2011. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Kansas State Capitol (Topeka, Kan.)
Pictured on Thursday, April 15, 2010. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
Kentucky State Capitol (Frankfort, Ky.)
Pictured on Wednesday, April 12, 2006. (AP Photo/James Crisp)
Louisiana State Capitol (Baton Rouge, La.)
Pictured on Monday, Jan. 14, 2008. (Matthew HINTON/AFP/Getty Images)
Maine State Capitol (Augusta, Me.)
Pictured on Monday, Oct. 17, 2011. (AP Photo/Pat Wellenbach)
Maryland State House (Annapolis, Md.)
(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Massachusetts State House (Boston)
Pictured on Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2007. (Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images)
Michigan State Capitol (Lansing, Mich.)
Pictured on Wednesday, April 13, 2011. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)
Minnesota State Capitol (St. Paul, Minn.)
Pictured on Friday, July 1, 2011. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Mississippi State Capitol (Jackson, Miss.)
Pictured on Thursday, June 10, 1999. (AP Photo/Rogelio Solis)
Missouri State Capitol (Jefferson City, Mo.)
Pictured on Friday, Oct. 16, 2000. (Photo credit should read ORLIN WAGNER/AFP/Getty Images)
Montana State Capitol (Helena, Mont.)
Nebraska State Capitol (Lincoln, Neb.)
Pictured on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 1998. (AP Photo/S.E. McKee)
Nevada State Capitol (Carson City, Nev.)
New Hampshire State House (Concord, N.H.)
Pictured on Friday, Dec. 28, 2001. (Todd Warshaw//Pool/Getty Images
New Jersey State House (Trenton, N.J.)
Pictured on Friday, Aug. 13, 2004. (Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images)
New Mexico State Capitol (Santa Fe, N.M.)
New York State Capitol (Albany, N.Y.)
Pictured on Sunday, March 16, 2008. (Photo by Daniel Barry/Getty Images)
North Carolina State Capitol (Raleigh, N.C.)
Pictured in 1930. (AP Photo)
North Dakota State Capitol (Bismarck, N.D.)
Pictured on Thursday, April 19, 2012. (AP Photo/Dale Wetzel)
Ohio Statehouse (Columbus, Ohio)
Pictured on Tuesday, March 8, 2011. (Photo by Mike Munden/Getty Images)
Oklahoma State Capitol (Oklahoma City)
Pictured on Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Oregon State Capitol (Salem, Ore.)
Pictured on Friday, May 20, 2011. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, file)
Pennsylvania State Capitol (Harrisburg, Pa.)
Pictured on Thursday, June 28, 2012. (BRIGITTE DUSSEAU/AFP/GettyImages)
Rhode Island State House (Providence, R.I.)
Pictured on Wednesday, Aug. 1, 1945. (AP Photo)
South Carolina State House (Columbia, S.C.)
Pictured on Monday, Jan. 21, 2008. (Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images)
South Dakota State Capitol (Pierre, S.D.)
Pictured on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2012. (AP Photo/Doug Dreyer)
Tennessee State Capitol (Nashville, Tenn.)
Pictured on Tuesday, Sept. 30, 1941. (AP Photo)
Texas State Capitol (Austin, Texas)
Pictured on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011. (MIRA OBERMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Utah State Capitol (Salt Lake City)
Pictured on Thursday, March 15, 2001. (GEORGE FREY/AFP/Getty Images)
Vermont State House (Montpelier, Vt.)
Pictured on April 9, 1953. (AP Photo/Francis C. Curtin)
Virginia State Capitol (Richmond, Va.)
Pictured on Wednesday, May 2, 2007. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
Washington State Capitol (Olympia, Wash.)
Pictured on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2012. (AP Photo/Rachel La Corte)
West Virginia State Capitol (Charleston, W.V.)
Pictured on July 2, 2010. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Wisconsin State Capitol (Madison, Wis.)
Pictured on Saturday, Dec. 24, 2011. (KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)
Wyoming State Capitol (Cheyenne, Wyo.)
Pictured on Tuesday, March 6, 2001. (Photo by Michael Smith/Newsmakers)