Atlanta schools announce changes after scandal

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ATLANTA  — As the Atlanta school district grapples with a cheating scandal that has drawn national attention, the interim school superintendent said today that the district will automatically investigate suspicious test scores and require ethics training for all employees.

FILE - In a Feb. 20, 2009 file photo, Beverly Hall, Atlanta superintendent of public schools, holds up her award after she was named the 2009 Superintendent of the Year at the American Association of School Administrators' National Conference on Education in San Francisco.   AP/ file
AP/ file
FILE - In a Feb. 20, 2009 file photo, Beverly Hall, Atlanta superintendent of public schools, holds up her award after she was named the 2009 Superintendent of the Year at the American Association of School Administrators' National Conference on Education in San Francisco.

The changes announced by interim Superintendent Erroll Davis Jr. come two days after state investigators said 178 educators had cheated on standardized tests used to meet federal benchmarks dating back to 2001. Davis reiterated today that none of those educators will work in an Atlanta classroom again.

The educators face possible criminal charges and could lose their teaching licenses for changing answers on students' tests and helping students answer questions. Some may face charges of lying to investigators or tampering with state documents.

"This is just a start," said Davis, who has been on the job less than a week.

The educators in the probe represent just a fraction of the 6,000 employees in the 50,000-student district.

Davis said the office that receives ethics complaints will now report directly to the school board rather than to the district's human resources division. State investigators found that the ethics office didn't adequately look into complaints and tried to cover up the extent of cheating allegations in the district.

Any classroom where test scores increased by unusual or unreasonable amounts will automatically be investigated by district officials, he said. And he said he will require annual ethics training — likely online — for all 6,000 of the district's employees.

Children affected by the cheating will be given as much tutoring and remedial help as needed, Davis said. Before the state investigation, the district had begun giving extra help last year to 5,400 students identified in a district-based probe of the cheating.

The testing problems first came to light after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that some scores were statistically improbable. The state launched audits of test results after the newspaper published its analysis of the test scores.

The state investigation was launched last August by then-Gov. Sonny Perdue who was upset over what he called a "woefully inadequate" probe by the district.

Educators told the state investigators they were pressured by administrators to improve test scores. The investigative report said former Superintendent Beverly Hall either knew or should have known that cheating was widespread. Hall's attorney has denied all allegations against her.

Meanwhile, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan on Thursday called the Atlanta schools cheating scandal "unfortunate," saying it highlights the need for transparency in education. Educators told investigators they were under immense stress to raise student achievement and test scores.

Duncan said schools across the country are facing the same pressures but are making "genuine" progress without cheating.

Parent Cynthia Briscoe Brown, whose son is a rising sophomore in Atlanta, said she is pleased with the district's response to the cheating probe.

"I think it's very appropriate," said Brown, whose son is not at one of the 44 schools where the state found cheating. "(Davis) is clearly moving swiftly to make sure teachers who made bad choices suffer the consequences."

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augusta citizen
10021
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augusta citizen 07/07/11 - 03:21 pm
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I hope "teachers who made bad

I hope "teachers who made bad choices suffer the consequences" too. They should lose their jobs and teaching certificates, from the top down. This is disgusting.

TK3
562
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TK3 07/07/11 - 03:58 pm
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The government school system

The government school system is, for the most part, a bad joke and has failed more than a generation of students, the backbone of the nations future.
The time has come to make a choice, Mr. and Mrs. Parent. Either you speak up like a parent and act for real-change of the "system" or find a alternative such as private or Home Schooling or just choose to stay in Wonderland, take your government issued blue pill (so to speak) and quietly send the kids back to their government school desk on time from this day forth and all suffer the long term consequence.

Stepping out of the government "Matrix -- the world of lies which we've been fed -- is a discipline, something we have to choose every moment of our lives. Our default as humans is to believe the lie, because it is what so often surrounds us, what seems to have always been." Don't depend anymore on Big Brother to solve the very problems he creates at your expense. Wake up!

Sweet son
11674
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Sweet son 07/07/11 - 04:30 pm
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I hope that this is the last

I hope that this is the last picture of Madam Superintendant we see where she is smiling. She didn't know 'nutin' and she didn't do 'nutin.' That is just bull feces!!!! She needs to be the first to be prosecuted along with many others. Guess what? It won't happen!!!!

Patty-P
3520
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Patty-P 07/07/11 - 04:37 pm
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I wouldn't be surprised if

I wouldn't be surprised if this has happened in Richmond County.

seenitB4
97787
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seenitB4 07/08/11 - 06:54 am
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Too many tests won't help the

Too many tests won't help the kids learn.......crazy-insane-schoolsystem.

copperhead
1035
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copperhead 07/08/11 - 07:45 am
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AMNESTY! AMNESTY! This person

AMNESTY! AMNESTY! This person was just trying to make a better life for her and her family! AMNESTY! AMNESTY! Atlanta is a sanctuary city!

Reverie
54
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Reverie 07/08/11 - 12:13 pm
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This problem begins with

This problem begins with government regulation and HIGH STAKES testing. It ends with kids who can pass a test they were drilled on and highly prepared for, but they can't compete with kids in other countries in areas of critical thinking, analysis, and problem solving. As we approach the NCLB goal of 100% or fire the teachers and shut down the school, expect more of this type of corrupt behavior.

Reverie
54
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Reverie 07/08/11 - 01:24 pm
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She will probably step down

She will probably step down and retire after her lawyers confirm that she is not liable and that her Golden Parachute contract is in place.

Sweet son
11674
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Sweet son 07/08/11 - 04:03 pm
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Patty P, Nail on the head!!

Patty P, Nail on the head!! Me too!!

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