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Thursday, August 25, 2011 - 12:49pm

Probe Finds Possible School Cheating

Georgia state investigators who uncovered widespread cheating in Atlanta Public Schools earlier this year now say they’ve found evidence of cheating in a second school system.

Officials flagged half of Dougherty County schools for cheating after they found high numbers of erasures on state tests. The inquiry is about half done, but investigators have confirmed cheating in every school they’ve visited so far.

Investigators say that officials in the southwest Georgia county have cooperated fully with the inquiry.

“Our interest, frankly is the same as theirs,” said attorney Tommy Coleman, who represents the Dougherty County schools. “If we’ve got people in our system who have committed an infraction of any kind, we need to deal with it as a system. So we’ve actually had some discussions about how we’re going to do that when the investigation is over.”

Coleman said that the district is preparing for the fallout from the investigation, which he said could be expensive to the district and disruptive to schools.

Investigators completed their inquiry in Atlanta over the summer, which meant the district removed implicated teachers from the classroom before the start of school. But in Dougherty County, the investigation will most likely be released mid-year.

Coleman says that while it’s possible cheating was widespread in the county, he does not believe it was rooted in pressure to raise test scores.

“There wasn’t this top down pressure here in Dougherty County,” he said. “There wasn’t any board policy [like] “we’re going to give you three years to improve your scores or we’re going to fire you”…so that’s a question that remains unresolved about what prompted people to do this in the event they actually did.”

Some schools in the county did offer small financial incentives for raising scores, Coleman said, but

Coleman says the district will have a better idea of the full scope of the cheating next month. Investigators say their full report may come in November.

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