Teachers and principals at more than 40 of Atlanta’s roughly 100 public schools cheated on state standardized tests in 2009. That’s the conclusion of a state investigation whose results were made public Tuesday by Governor Nathan Deal.
Investigators found that nearly 180 Atlanta teachers and principals cheated in 2009, but uncovered instances of cheating dating back a decade.
Deal said he hoped the report would mark a turning point for the troubled school system, and was careful to praise the professionalism of most Georgia teachers and principals.
"However, when educators have failed to uphold the public trust and students are harmed in the process, there will be consequences," Deal said.
Deal said some criminal charges could result from the report, and his office has referred the findings to district attorneys in Fulton, DeKalb and Douglas counties. The state’s Professional Standards Commission is also expected to sanction some educators.
The governor refused to comment on how much responsibility for the cheating lies with former Superintendent Beverly Hall, who retired last week. But the report cites what investigators call a “major failure of leadership.”
Deal said that extreme pressure to boost test scores drove teachers and principals to cheat.
"I think the overall conclusion was that testing, and results, and targets being reached became more important than actual learning on the part of children," Deal said.
But Atlanta’s brand-new interim superintendent Erroll Davis said that though the district would take a zero-tolerance policy towards cheating, it would not relax its expectations for academic performance.
"I don’t know what makes people cheat, but I want to make one thing clear: It is not pressure to perform," Davis said.
The full report was released by the governor's office Tuesday evening. Details from the report's overview include:
--- "Thousands of children were harmed by the 2009 CRCT cheating scandal by being denied remedial education because of their inflated CRCT scores."
--- "We found cheating in 44 of the 56 schools we examined (78.6%). There were 38 principals of those 56 schools (67.9%) found to be responsible for, or directly involved in, cheating."
--- "We determined that 178 teachers and principals in the Atlanta Public School System cheated. Of the 178, 82 confessed to this misconduct. Six principals refused to answer our questions, and pled the Fifth Amendment, which, under civil law is an implied admission of wrongdoing. These principals, and 32 more, either were involved with, or should have known that there was test cheating in their schools."
--- "Cheating occurred as early as 2001."
--- "There were warnings of cheating on CRCT as early as December 2005/January 2006. The warnings were significant and clear and were ignored."
--- "Cheating was caused by a number of factors but primarily by the pressure to meet targets in the data-driven environment."
--- "There was a major failure of leadership throughout APS with regard to the ethical administration of the 2009 CRCT."
--- "A culture of fear, intimidation and retaliation existed in APS, which created a conspiracy of silence and deniability with respect to standardized test misconduct."
--- "In addition to the 2009 CRCT cheating, we found other improper conduct: several open record act violations; instances of false statements; and instances of document destruction."
List of schools where investigators found cheating:
Venetian Hills Elementary
FL Staunton Elementary
Peyton Forest Elementary
East Lake Elementary
DH Staunton Elementary
Beecher Hills Elementary
Thomasville Heights Elementary
Capitol View Elementary
West Manor Elementary
MA Jones Elementary
Grove Park Elementary
University Community Academy