Dozens indicted in Atlanta cheating scandal

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ATLANTA — The former superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools and nearly three dozen other administrators, teachers, principals and other educators were indicted Friday in one of the nation’s largest cheating scandals.

Former Superintendent Beverly Hall faces charges including racketeering, false statements and theft. She retired just days before the results of a state investigation were released in 2011, and she has previously denied the allegations. The indictment represents the first criminal charges in the investigation.

The state investigation found cheating by nearly 180 educators in 44 Atlanta schools. Educators gave answers to students or changed answers on tests after they were turned in, investigators said. Teachers who tried to report it faced retaliation, creating a culture of “fear and intimidation” in the district.

The cheating came to light after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that some scores were statistically improbable.

The criminal investigation lasted 21 months and the allegations date back to 2005. In addition to Hall, 34 people were indicted, including four high-level administrators, six principals and 14 teachers.

At a news conference Friday, Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard provided examples of two students who demonstrated “the plight of many children” in the Atlanta school system. He described one girl, a third-grader, who failed a benchmark exam and received the worst score in her reading class in 2006. The girl was held back, yet when she took a separate assessment test not long after, she passed with flying colors.

Howard said the girl’s mother, Justina Collins, knew something was awry, but was told by school officials that the child simply was a good test-taker. The girl is now in ninth grade, reading at a fifth-grade level.

“I have a 15-year-old now who is behind in achieving her goal of becoming what she wants to be when she graduates. It’s been hard trying to help her catch up,” Collins said.

Howard would not directly answer a question about whether Hall led the conspiracy. He did say, however, “what we’re saying is that without her, this conspiracy could not have taken place. … It would not have taken place if her actions had not made that possible.”

Most of the 178 educators named in the special investigators’ report in 2011 resigned, retired, did not have their contracts renewed or appealed their dismissals and lost. Twenty-one educators have been reinstated and three await hearings to appeal their dismissals, said Atlanta Public Schools spokesman Stephen Alford.

The tests were the key measure the state used to determine whether it met the federal No Child Left Behind law. Schools with good test scores get extra federal dollars to spend in the classroom or on teacher bonuses.

Howard said the theft charges included bonus money Hall received as a result of the falsified scores.

"Those results were caused by cheating. ... And the money that she received, we are alleging that money was ill-gotten," Howard said.

It wasn't immediately clear how much money Hall received. Howard did not say, and the amount wasn't mentioned in the indictment.

Georgia last year was granted a waiver from the federal law, which allowed schools to count a host of measures in addition to standardized tests.

State schools Superintendent John Barge said last year he believes the state’s new accountability system will remove the pressure to cheat on standardized tests because it won’t be the sole way the state determines student growth. The pressure was part of what some educators in Atlanta Public Schools blamed for their cheating.

Alford said the district was moving on from the scandal.

“This is a legal matter between the individuals implicated and the Fulton County District Attorney’s office, and we will allow the legal process to take its course,” he said before the indictment was announced. “Our focus is on providing a quality education to all of our students and supporting the 6,000 employees who come to work each day and make sound decisions about educating our students.”

The Georgia Professional Standards Commission is responsible for licensing teachers and has been going through the complaints against teachers, said commission executive secretary Kelly Henson.

The commission considers cases as they are released from the district attorney’s office. By Wednesday, they had received all but 26, Henson said.

It’s common for educators to receive professional sanctions from the commission but not be charged, Henson said. The commission only requires a finding of guilt based on good evidence of wrongdoing, while criminal prosecutions require guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Of the 159 cases that the commission already reviewed, 44 resulted in license revocations, 100 got two-year suspensions and nine were suspended for less than two years, Henson said. No action was taken against six of the educators.

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nocnoc
42470
Points
nocnoc 03/29/13 - 07:01 pm
8
0
Face it

Stupid is as Stupid Does.

Some students can't learn.
Some students don't want to learn.

Some students understand the system and are waiting
until they are 18 to draw a check or hook up with a
Baby Mama already on the dole.

An some teachers just can't teach.

Jane18
12332
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Jane18 03/29/13 - 07:23 pm
5
0
Atlanta

Anything that has came, or will come out of Atlanta, concerning, education and politics, does not surprise me one iota. Heck, I expect it out of those in charge ...........Just a bunch of lying thieves!! They got a little authority, and went beserk! It was too much for the most of them---way over their mentality and morals.

Fiat_Lux
15410
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Fiat_Lux 03/29/13 - 07:50 pm
4
0
And this is the cadre of people

who did not blink an eye at sending kids to alternative school for more than a semester for drinking on an away game.

This state public education system is so FUBAR that the smart Greenbrier parents withdrew their soccer players from it immediately. I wish all had been able to do so.

chascushman
6653
Points
chascushman 03/29/13 - 08:32 pm
5
3
This is SO typical in cities
Unpublished

This is SO typical in cities run my democrats.

KSL
129202
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KSL 03/29/13 - 09:23 pm
2
0
allhans
23620
Points
allhans 03/29/13 - 10:21 pm
1
0
Same old crowd..their loyal

Same old crowd..their loyal supporters ... But we all know that...

itsanotherday1
42932
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itsanotherday1 03/29/13 - 10:28 pm
4
0
AWESOME!!!!!

I don't want to label this as a political issue; I would be equally exhuberant regardless of the political persuasion of the accused. It is about time we held the educators accountable for their actions, which will trickle down to holding students accountable for theirs. Social promotions and any lame brained scheme to push students through the system need to stop. We are so far behind other developed countries in the sciences, math, and technology, that it is shameful. Quit catering to the lowest common denominator; PC be damned! Call a spade a spade, hold the students accountable for performance, and let's progress.

Unless and until we put the focus on education and be serious about it, we will continue to have an unmanageable underclass in the U.S.

dichotomy
32853
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dichotomy 03/29/13 - 11:31 pm
2
0
Oh they've watered down the

Oh they've watered down the evaluation system with this new thing so that nobody will ever fail or have to cheat either. We had tests to evaluate and they could not handle them. So now they've lowered the bar so that nobody will fail and no teacher will ever be shown to be incompetent. The foxes are back in charge at the henhouse. We will continue to graduate kids from high school that read like a 3 grader and can't multiply, divide, do fractions, or much less do a little algebra. Hey, but the pressure if off of the teachers.

oldredneckman96
5095
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oldredneckman96 03/30/13 - 01:26 am
3
0
ATL Crooks
Unpublished

AC, Please follow this and ensure that all involved do long time in prison. Just joking, you know they will collect thier pensions and retire well off.

jmo
15968
Points
jmo 03/30/13 - 06:35 am
3
0
Check their photos......

on AJC. I'll bet there are a lot of "Masters" degrees from really great schools in this group.

seenitB4
86957
Points
seenitB4 03/30/13 - 09:20 am
1
0
What a shame

The school system has lost the magic of teaching....we have to try something different.....something that will work & it isn't NCLB.

my.voice
4811
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my.voice 03/30/13 - 01:35 pm
1
0
What I would like to suggest

What I would like to suggest is that the legislature craft a law which does away with the pensions of these criminals. Ms Shrenko, for instance, has no business feeding off the taxpayers after her convictions. Put that in jeopardy, and some of this nonsense would ever be more than a thought.

Little Lamb
45870
Points
Little Lamb 03/30/13 - 03:40 pm
0
2
Pension

Well, my.voice, would you be in favor of a federal law which does away with Social Security benefits for people convicted of white collar crime?

Fiat_Lux
15410
Points
Fiat_Lux 03/30/13 - 03:42 pm
1
0
This bunch of troll made national news

They are an item on the crawl for the news stations.

Isn't this just wonderful? What a black eye this bunch of losers has given us. They can't teach their students because so many of them are so poorly socialized they can't even sit still in a classroom, yet somehow they think it's alright to cheat and make them look better than they really are.

And why? Not for the good of the students, but so they can get more money out of the fed to give big bonuses to their sorry selves. Put them under the jail. Tear down their houses, burn their cars, salt their land. Erase all memory of them.

harley_52
23272
Points
harley_52 03/30/13 - 04:31 pm
1
0
We Should Fire....

....eighty percent of all School Administrators across the Country and then take a real close look at those who remain. That's after we have eliminated the federal Department of Education. Teachers don't teach any more, they follow the agenda driven curricula created by these agenda driven Administrators to indoctrinate students instead of teaching. We spend more money per student than any other nation, yet we can't compete with most developed nations. Most of the money is wasted on School Administrators and on the liberal programs they push.

Darby
25577
Points
Darby 03/30/13 - 06:16 pm
2
0
You pay bonuses for high grades...

you're gonna get a bunch of high grades.

Anything the government subsidizes, you automatically get more of. From Obama phones, to high test scores and graduation rates.

What you can't buy, no matter how much money you give away, is higher literacy.

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