Probe Finds Widespread Cheating In Atlanta Schools

By DORIE TURNER (Associated Press)
Educators at nearly four dozen Atlanta elementary and middle schools cheated on standardized tests by either helping students or changing the answers once exams were handed in, according to the results of a yearlong state investigation released Tuesday, July 5.

The report said that 178 teachers and principals cheated, though only 82 educators actually confessed to misconduct dating as far back as 2001 and affecting thousands of schoolchildren, according to a synopsis handed out by Gov. Nathan Deal’s office. More than half of the district’s 100 schools were examined, and 44 of those had cheating, the synopsis said.

The investigators also found a ”culture of fear, intimidation and retaliation” in the school district over the cheating allegations, which led to educators lying about the cheating or destroying documents to cover it up, according to the synopsis. School officials had ”warnings” as early as 2005 that there was cheating on standardized tests, but those signals ”were ignored,” according to the synopsis.

Deal would not give out any further details or release the voluminous report because he said it contains ”very specific information” about educators. The results of the investigation are being forwarded to prosecutors, and many of the cases could lead to criminal charges, he said.

”Nothing is more important to the future of our state than ensuring that today’s students receive a first class education, and integrity in testing is a necessary piece of that equation,” Deal said. ”When educators have failed to uphold the public trust and students are harmed in the process, there will be consequences.”

All educators in the report also will be referred to the state Professional Standards Commission, which licenses teachers in Georgia, to determine whether they should have their licenses suspended or revoked, Deal said. The district has 6,000 employees, half of which are teachers.

Interim Atlanta schools Superintendent Erroll Davis said in a news conference  Tuesday that those responsible for the cheating will ”not be put in front of children again.” Davis took over the 50,000-student district Friday after former chief Beverly Hall retired.

”It’s clear this is to involve the removal in a very short period of time of those who have created or helped created or participated in or should have halted this scandal,” Davis said.

Atlanta School Board Chairwoman Brenda Muhammad said she was ”devastated” by the results of the probe.

”As a mother to many mothers sitting out here, I am very upset, very angry,” she said. ”Many of our children have been cheated, and that, I think, is the most sinful thing that we can do to our children because they look to us as adults. This board is

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