An open pit of corruption

Atlanta cheating scandal set children up for failure

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Gov. Nathan Deal is relatively safe in predicting that "brighter days lie ahead" in Atlanta public schools.

The reason: It couldn't get much darker.

In one of the worst education scandals in modern U.S. history, a state investigation unearthed cheating by at least 178 educators at 44 of 56 Atlanta public schools investigated; 80 of the guilty confessed to it.

That works out to about four cheating adults per school. And that's merely what has been confirmed.

In short, the Atlanta school district under former Superintendent Betty Hall was an open pit of corruption. The district, one teacher told investigators, "is run like the mob."

Hall, the alleged "godmother," was named national superintendent of the year in 2009.

For as long as a decade, writes The Atlanta Journal-Constitution , the unethical and perhaps illegal practices "pierced every level of the bureaucracy, allowing district staff to reap praise and sometimes bonuses by misleading the children, parents and community they served."

The governor can try to soft-pedal it all -- "The report's findings are troubling, but I am encouraged this investigation will bring closure to problems that existed in the Atlanta public schools. I am confident that brighter days lie ahead," he said -- but it's a stinking, shameful, mortifying scandal touching every aspect of Georgia life.

More appropriate to the occasion was the reaction of Atlanta school board chair Brenda Muhammad, who called the report "absolutely devastating, because it's our children. You just don't cheat children."

In truth, they cheated all of us. The Atlanta public schools have now been confirmed to have committed fraud against all of society, by warranting students as being more highly educated than they actually were. Those involved in the cheating have dishonored a most honorable profession, and should never be allowed to step foot inside it again. A jail cell would be more fitting.

Most of all, the cheaters have hurt Atlanta public schools and the children they are charged with educating. Any legitimate gains in Criterion-Referenced Competency Test scores will now be looked at with justified skepticism. And untold numbers of young people have been sent along thinking they know more than they do.

That's blithely and willfully setting children up for failure, pretty much the opposite of a school's mission.

This year, when the Atlanta public school district puts out the "Help wanted" sign, it signals an all-out emergency. Help is desperately wanted.

This damning report by special investigators confirms what the Journal-Constitution first found to be "statistically improbable increases in test scores at two Atlanta schools" in 2008. The following year, the newspaper detected an unusual number of "suspicious score changes" on the tests. The just-concluded state investigation looked at 2009.

The report, says the newspaper, "depicts a culture that rewarded cheaters, punished whistle-blowers and covered up improprieties," including "organized wrongdoing that robbed tens of thousands of children -- many of whom came from disadvantaged backgrounds and struggled in school -- of an honest appraisal of their abilities."

This is an unmitigated indictment of that school district and a public relations calamity for Georgia and its education system. When all the details of the cheating come out -- and they will -- it will only look worse.

Indeed, writes the Atlanta newspaper:

"Teachers and principals erased and corrected mistakes on students' answer sheets.

"Area superintendents silenced whistle-blowers and rewarded subordinates who met academic goals by any means possible.

"Superintendent Beverly Hall and her top aides ignored, buried, destroyed or altered complaints about misconduct, claimed ignorance of wrongdoing and accused naysayers of failing to believe in poor children's ability to learn."

At one school, the paper notes, "teachers sneaked tests off campus and held a weekend 'changing party' at a teacher's home in Douglas County to fix answers."

Investigators cited "highly organized, coordinated efforts to falsify tests," and said "a culture of fear, intimidation and retaliation permeated the APS system from the highest ranks down."

What twisted minds we're dealing with.

We don't know what criminal laws might apply to this scandal and those responsible for it, but whatever statutes do apply ought to be applied. What happened is criminal.

If it isn't, we have a pretty good idea of what the first task of the Georgia General Assembly needs to be next January.

Comments (69) Add comment
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Craig Spinks
817
Points
Craig Spinks 07/07/11 - 03:04 am
0
0
Does anyone believe that

Does anyone believe that misconduct of this type is unique to the APS?

copperhead
1035
Points
copperhead 07/07/11 - 04:58 am
0
0
Your tax dollars hard at

Your tax dollars hard at work!

Riverman1
79224
Points
Riverman1 07/07/11 - 05:04 am
0
0
Richmond County scored so low

Richmond County scored so low on the CRCT I'm inclined to believe they are at least honest.

wondersnevercease
9216
Points
wondersnevercease 07/07/11 - 06:39 am
0
0
To say these people cheated
Unpublished

To say these people cheated because they are not paid enough is typical liberal rhetoric................they cheated because they had no integrity.

southernguy08
499
Points
southernguy08 07/07/11 - 07:31 am
0
0
RETIRED, we all could use
Unpublished

RETIRED, we all could use more money. We as a nation, America spends far more on education than nations that are beating our kids' pants off in international math and science competitions such as China, India, and South Korea. I know the liberal fix for everything is just spend more money, but this is confirmation that public schools just aren't getting the job done, and need some real competition. Such competition could be a reality, if we'd stop listening to the NEA and make school vouchers a reality. I'll agree with you on one point...our children are worth it. MORE MONEY ISN'T THE ANSWER!

carcraft
24104
Points
carcraft 07/07/11 - 07:52 am
0
0
Southernguy-You are

Southernguy-You are absolutely correct, excellent post!

Ga Values
27
Points
Ga Values 07/07/11 - 08:18 am
0
0
Ms Hall makes over $300,000

Ms Hall makes over $300,000 per year, most of the central office staff that cheated make over $200,000 per year, the Principals that cheated make between $150,000 & 200,000. These people need jail time not more money.

WW1949
19
Points
WW1949 07/07/11 - 08:43 am
0
0
The children of the poor need

The children of the poor need an attitude change away from the era of rap, pants to their hips, tattoos and all other stupid things. Parents of these children need to try and take control and make them study. If their capacity to learn is not as good as others then they shoild go to a trade school. We are not all the same. More money will not fix the situation and attitudes of our students. RA I graduated from Richmond Academy in 1967 and am thankful for all the teachers I had and the work ethic my PAREMTS INSTILLED IN ME that gave me he desire to do the best I could. Fixing test scores can not help. The future employer would pick up on that in the interview right away.

justthefacts
20327
Points
justthefacts 07/07/11 - 08:44 am
0
0
The answer lies somewhere

The answer lies somewhere between Retired Army's and Southerguy's posts. Of course we need to pay teachers more. They are woefully underpaid. Obviously if they were paid better, it would attract better talent. However, the devil is in the details. What's needed is better utilization of the money spent and elimination of Unions.

Chillen
17
Points
Chillen 07/07/11 - 08:55 am
0
0
78% of Atlanta Public schools

78% of Atlanta Public schools cheated!!! 78%!!!

Those involved should be immediately fired - from the bottom to the top. They should immediately lose all benefits, including any pensions they have coming to them. No "free pass" due to socio-economic conditions should be issued. That would be racist.

Where is the outcry from the parents of those school children? Somehow I must have missed that. Or is it non-existent.

scorehouse
196
Points
scorehouse 07/07/11 - 09:03 am
0
0
have they all been fired or
Unpublished

have they all been fired or has the union living of our payroll deducted tax dollars saved their no-good theiving, cheating donkeys?

ECDanes
1
Points
ECDanes 07/07/11 - 09:04 am
0
0
If you people think this

If you people think this problem is unique to Atlanta public schools, think again. It's just that, unlike Disgusta, the Atlanta area has investigative journalism, so they uncovered this sordid affair. Expect much worse at your local Disgusta schools

justthefacts
20327
Points
justthefacts 07/07/11 - 09:23 am
0
0
ECDanes, this scandal was not

ECDanes, this scandal was not uncovered by "investigative journalism". The investigation was initiated by the Governor.

Chillen
17
Points
Chillen 07/07/11 - 09:43 am
0
0
I just read the early posts

I just read the early posts about more money for teachers. I have a few comments. The school systems have plenty of money. It is just being wasted in the administrative area and the school construction area (state of the art taj mahals being built).

Yes, we would attract better talent if we paid more. I didn't pursue teaching - mainly because of the pay. But we all fail to realize that these teachers are only working 9 out of 12 months. During their off time, they can take a job, they can tutor, or whatever to earn more money. It is a blessing for women especially to be off in the summer time with their children. What a great job perk.

All of this said, low pay is NOT the reason for the cheating. What you have in Atlanta is unethical, lying, cheating employees. Add to that pressure from the state to improve (notice I left the "parents" out). Then you get cheating.

Riverman1
79224
Points
Riverman1 07/07/11 - 09:44 am
0
0
Nathan Deal looking into

Nathan Deal looking into corruption. Now that's a switch.

Michael Ryan
602
Points
Michael Ryan 07/07/11 - 09:50 am
0
0
You're wrong, justthefacts;

You're wrong, justthefacts; the AJC broke the story.

carcraft
24104
Points
carcraft 07/07/11 - 10:03 am
0
0
Chillen- I believe that you

Chillen- I believe that you are wrong about "time off" during the summer. My daughter teaches, and I believe, a teacher needs to get a masters with in so many years of starting to teach. For the next two years she will completeing that requirement. Then she has to take somany other courses to keep the certification. If I am wrong on this I well gladly stand corrected. It is indeed a lack of integrety that these people exhibit and they should be packed off to jail for conspiracy to commit a criminal act!

faithson
4783
Points
faithson 07/07/11 - 10:03 am
0
0
I would argue 'it's all about

I would argue 'it's all about the money honey'... Once we are informed as to the amount of money the Atlanta School system received because of its deception we will know the 'motivation' for the crimes. Seems that again, the root of many of our social evils is rooted in the almighty dollar, who'd a thought.

Riverman1
79224
Points
Riverman1 07/07/11 - 10:27 am
0
0
There is a small county

There is a small county around here that had very, very good results. I have suspicions. The AJC website has a breakdown by county of test scores.

Riverman1
79224
Points
Riverman1 07/07/11 - 10:29 am
0
0
Oh, the Bill Gates Foundation

Oh, the Bill Gates Foundation gave money to the Atlanta school system for the superior results. The superintendent was given bonuses. The feds pumped in extra money as a reward.

ECDanes
1
Points
ECDanes 07/07/11 - 10:38 am
0
0
when I first read this

when I first read this headline "Open Pit of Corruption" I just figured it was about Augusta City Government.. guess I be wrong this time

TK3
562
Points
TK3 07/07/11 - 10:48 am
0
0
Reap what you sow. Anyone who

Reap what you sow. Anyone who thinks government schools are teaching students as well as past generations have either don't have a kid in school or haven't spoken to one in the last 50 years.

As long as government schools are used as babysitters and socialist brainwashing centers, things will only get worse and more violent unless long overdue change comes about.

Course you have to understand, most of these officials, teachers and parents "are not ready to be unplugged. Many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it" and will choose to take a blue pill yet again on election day.

nlgh95
0
Points
nlgh95 07/07/11 - 10:57 am
0
0
"Education is everything.

"Education is everything. Schools should be like cathedrals. The competition for the best teachers should be fierce. They should be paid six figure salaries. Education should be incredibly expensive for the government and absolutely free to the taxpayers, just like national defense."

I wish I could say that was my writing but I certainly concur with the author's position.

Chillen
17
Points
Chillen 07/07/11 - 10:57 am
0
0
Take the CRCT scores and

Take the CRCT scores and match them to the feeder high school SAT scores & graduation test results.

For example, if you have CRCT scores in the 80th percentile but average graduation test results are 65th percentile and SAT is 40th percentile, then something is rotten in denmark.

If there is a disconnect, then there is rampant cheating. A simple mathematical equation could be built to "flag" certain schools. I'm sure this all to logical for govt bureaucrats to figure out though.

@carcraft. I'm sure teachers do need to go back for special classes - so do many in other professions, it's just part of the job. For example, if you are in the business world, a Master's degree will move you up the corporate ladder faster. Those people work 12 months per year AND go to school at night.

Teachers still get time off away from the regular job. Between summer & Christmas it's 3 months off. I'm just saying that if you make $45,000 for 9 months of work, that equals $60,000 if you work full time. The pay is not as bad as it seems on the surface.

I still say the "fat" is in the building expense and the administration. We as citizens should demand that they fix it. But we won't. And they know it.

Chillen
17
Points
Chillen 07/07/11 - 11:01 am
0
0
Better yet, end the CRCT

Better yet, end the CRCT testing and let the teachers actually teach instead of spending all year "teaching to the test" and plotting how to cheat for their students (some of them).

nlgh95
0
Points
nlgh95 07/07/11 - 11:08 am
0
0
And one other point to

And one other point to consider: As we are talking about how horrible the public education is in the United States as compared to other countries (India, China, etc.) let's take into account that, in the United States, the public school system educates ALL children. Not just the upper middle and higher SES (socio-economic status) children, not just the children whose parents can afford to send them to school, not just the children who have no learning issues. The United States educates ALL children.

I encourage everyone to be part of the solution, not the problem. Volunteer in your local schools.

southernguy08
499
Points
southernguy08 07/07/11 - 11:33 am
0
0
Let's give the public schools
Unpublished

Let's give the public schools some real competition! The way things are now, they have no incentive to improve because they know the bulk of parents can't afford to send their kids to private schools. VOUCHERS!!!!

Riverman1
79224
Points
Riverman1 07/07/11 - 11:55 am
0
0
The fact is you could put

The fact is you could put kids from good neighborhoods in tents with TV instruction from Atlanta and they would still do better than kids from bad neighborhoods in the most expensive schools with the best paid teachers. It's a complex problem.

Riverman1
79224
Points
Riverman1 07/07/11 - 11:58 am
0
0
I'd do away with all schools

I'd do away with all schools past the third grade when children have learned to read, write and basic math. From then on everything would be online. It would save zillions and probably work better. Some kids would excel, while some would find other pursuits.

ECDanes
1
Points
ECDanes 07/07/11 - 12:11 pm
0
0
a woman at work the other day

a woman at work the other day was telling me how her 5th grader came home and told her that her Language Arts teacher sits and eats cheetoes everyday in class and just gives them a word search to do as an assignment. yes it is a Richmond county public school.

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