On July 5th of this year, America’s biggest teacher and principal cheating scandal made national headlines as 178 school employees—including 38 principals—were named as having falsified award-winning gains on standardized tests. ChoiceMedia.TV’s Bob Bowdon recently traveled to Atlanta, Georgia to get the whole story.
“Well back in 2008 and 2009 the Atlanta Journal-Constitution published some analysis looking at the significant uptick in results for the state curriculum test,” said Jerri Nims Rooker, Director of the Center for an Educated Georgia. “The CRCT, which is a Criterion Reference Curriculum Test, shot up to a higher number that was so significantly higher that it gave reason for pause.”
In fact, test scores increased so dramatically that they brought awards and national recognition to the district and to Superintendent Beverley Hall.
At the news of such dramatic gains, former Governor Sonny Perdue’s education department decided to have a testing company perform a so-called “erasure analysis.” The results were astounding. “On average there’s about one wrong-to-right erasure per test of sixty to seventy-five questions,” explained Dr. Benjamin Scafidi, Professor of Economics at Georgia College & State University. “On average that’s about one correct erasure per exam. In Atlanta Public Schools, many of the classrooms had averages of four, ten, even higher.”
The governor’s investigation was only made necessary after initial inquiries to the Atlanta Public Schools were met with diversions. “They paid a lot of money to have people dispute the numbers. They paid a lot of money to have people come in and ask questions, but not very hard questions and so they came up with this report that didn’t really answer anything,” said Eric Wearne, who worked in the governor’s office. Eventually, Perdue hired two special investigators to work alongside the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) in search of answers. With the GBI’s subpoena powers, “people started to talk.”
Ultimately, over 80 teachers and administrators confessed to cheating, implicating 44 of the 56 schools that were examined. Lying to investigators and destroying or altering public records are felonies under Georgia law and can carry a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.
“Principals and assistant principals in some cases and teachers would gather at someone’s house over the weekend to erase the answers of the children that were wrong and make them right,” said Dr. Tony Roberts, President of the Georgia Charter Schools Association.
“Cheating had become so ingrained in some of our school systems in Georgia that I guess these adults, these teachers—who you would expect to be role models—completely lost their sense of integrity and character,” said Kelly McCutchen, President Georgia Public Policy Foundation. “One school had an 88% passing rate. The next year after the cheating scandal was uncovered, we had monitors. It plummeted to 27%. It was reported that one student on the district’s pass list actually took the exam under his desk and filled in random answers.”
Atlanta Public School parent Molly Bardsley said, “I don’t know what was worse, the whole scandal or the way the scandal was covered up and denied. You know, when you read the first reports in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, if you had any knowledge or understanding of statistics, it was very clear that something was wrong. And yet there was denial after denial after denial. There were even accusations of racism that if you discounted these achievement gains somehow it was because you didn’t believe that poor minority students could achieve.”
Georgia Governor Nathan Deal told ChoiceMedia.TV, “It is regrettable that it occurred. There is no excuse for anyone cheating—especially teachers or administrators—and our state is dealing with it head on. We’re dealing with it very forcefully.”
The governor added, “The most important thing is that we want to make sure that those children—who perhaps were themselves cheated in this process—receive the appropriate remediation so that their lives are not permanently affected by what happened.”
© 2011, ChoiceMedia.TV