Your Take: Lessons From the Atlanta Cheating Scandal

The allegations of massive fraud in public school test scores show that educators are focused more on avoiding failure than on teaching children better, says this education advocate.

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Expanding the criteria for rating schools may reduce the myopic focus on standardized test results. Such an assessment should cover factors that increase student achievement, including instruction, funding and support for students.

Standardized tests also have a place in the evaluation of schools. When students repeatedly do poorly on tests that accurately measure their knowledge, we should be examining the reasons. The challenge for policymakers is to craft the appropriate responses to any sign of school failure, whether it's a lack of competent school leadership or insufficient lab tools for students to learn science.

There is no foolproof way to guard against cheating in a system where adults are ultimately responsible for student learning. But when education policy focuses on creating and supporting academic environments in which learning is the goal, school cultures will likely change from test-focused to student-focused. That's a lesson worth teaching our children.

Saba Bireda is a graduate of Harvard Law School and an education advocate living in Washington, D.C. She is the deputy director of the Poverty & Race Research Action Council.

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