Is it possible that these teachers were in fear of their jobs and made poor decisions?
Whether or not they feared the loss of their job is of no importance. The student is the top priority for the teacher; or, at least they should be. If a teacher cannot or will not adhere to that basic tenet then they should exit the profession.
The superintendent received a half million dollars in bonuses for "improving" the scores and the teachers benefited as well so I think they absolutely DO deserve to be punished.
Not to mention that the kids were cheated out of an education.
They just need to eliminate the tests. They're expensive and worthless.
The teachers involved as well as the superintendent most definitely need to face consequences for their actions. What they did was wrong, no question about it and as you indicate, it is the children who end up losing.
As to elimination of tests, I must disagree. While testing is expensive, there is a value to it. That said, I believe students should (with parental/guardian approval) have the right to decline taking the test. Of course, if they do, there should be some other way of determining what they have learned. Perhaps a paper of some sort or an oral presentation, either to an entire class or a smaller group (2 to 4 teachers and a department head). It is technically still testing; however, it has flexibility not found in standardized testing.
These teaches are trying to teach the least among us but do you think that it is fair that they should be treated as if they were educating the brightest among us?
A teacher goes into the classroom knowing that some students will have a harder time learning the material (or at least they should know this).
This is how I see it as well but not meaning any harm but if you were to be a teacher of the most impoverished of your state do you you think that you might not as well tried to do everything you could to keep funding to your school even though some of your ideas would be unethical? Maybe you are without sin even though you have empathy for those who score less than others and you would like to see a modest income for yourself.
Then they do not belong in the profession. Teaching should be about the student not about getting extra dollars while cheating the student.
In my years of teaching I never found myself hoping for someone to offer me some disgusting financial supplement in exchange for reducing my students to nothing more than flexible statistical figures for manipulation.
There were students who were unable to learn all the material presented to them. It would have been wrong to alter their test results or change answers for any reason and definitely not for a few dollars. Think of how shameful an act that is. The student is led to believe they are top of the class, or at least be a few points above the passing grade. They then step out into the real world and are faced with a harsh reality. Not only were they not at the top, they were lied to. If a student needs extra help, then it should be supplied. If the material as written and presented cannot be absorbed, then find alternate routes. If dissection of animals was too much or too difficult for a student, my standard method was to have them work up a report on the same creature discussing the entire life cycle. Point being, there is always an alternate route towards determining the student's fullest knowledge and in most (not all) cases, they would shine brighter in certain areas and be a little less certain in others.
Then they should rise up and refuse to administer a test they know to be unfair.
Easier said than done. Not saying it cannot be done; however, there are repercussions which include job loss. Once that happens, their voice is substantially softened.
If the test is unfair, expose it. Get the information to the press, inform the parents/guardians of the students and bring them into the mix and get them involved with the future of their charge.