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Tuesday, December 20, 2011 - 4:42am

Dougherty Schools Cheating 'Disgraceful'

State investigators have uncovered widespread cheating in a second public school district –- this time in Dougherty County in South Georgia. The report follows revelations earlier this year that nearly 200 educators cheated on state tests in Atlanta.

The investigation found that 49 teachers and principals in nearly half of Dougherty County’s schools tampered with state tests in 2009.

One of the investigators, Michael Bowers, says the cheating may have been caused by a fear of being branded a failure under federal benchmarks, and made possible by lax oversight from district leaders.

"It was certainly different from Atlanta in that in Atlanta, there was much more pressure from the top down, very directed, specific pressure," Bowers says. "We did not find that in Dougherty County."

The school district’s attorney, Tommy Coleman, says the district has set up a tribunal to hear the cases of individual educators. In the meantime, he says the district hopes to remove implicated teachers with minimal disruption to students.

"To fill vacancies, if necessary and to shift current employees around to ensure that the students of Dougherty County are taught and have someone there to continue their education so there won’t be any lapse by the students because a teacher may be absent as a result of the cheating matter," Coleman says.

Governor Nathan Deal has also referred the report’s findings to Dougherty County’s attorney general and the state Professional Standards Commission, which will investigate whether the educators should lose their licenses.

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