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article imageOrganized, systemic cheating alleged in Atlanta public schools

By Andrew Moran     Jul 7, 2011 in World
Atlanta - State investigators are alleging in an 800-page report that at least 44 Atlanta public schools participated in organized, systemic cheating. Around 178 teachers, 38 principals and former school superintendent Beverly Hall colluded in the cheating.
Georgia Governor Nathan Deal spoke inside of the Georgia Capitol where he discussed the details of his office’s in-depth investigation of a teaching scandal that plagued 44 of the 56 public schools in Atlanta.
According to the state report that was released to the Associated Press, 38 principals and 178 teachers participated in the cheating scandal. Teachers were caught changing the answers to standardized tests that were used to judge and rank student and school performance. 82 of the accused teachers have already confessed.
The investigation began when administrators noticed many erasure marks on the tests, which were due to principals and teachers erasing the wrong answers and filling in the correct ones. The 800-page report noted that one school held pizza parties on weekends where they had corrected the wrong answers prior to submitting the tests.
It is stated that this practice has occurred since 2001. Former superintendent and 2009 Superintendent of the Year, Beverly Hall, is accused of taking part in this scandal. Hall received hundreds of thousands of dollars for her achievements, which could be fraudulent.
Sidnye Fells, a fourth grade teacher, who resigned in 2008 due to the school-wide cheating, told ABC News that teachers were forced to cheat and were told that they would be punished if they did not change the answers.
“We were told to get these scores by any means necessary,” said Fells. “We were told our jobs were on the line.”
According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said it was a “dark day” for Atlanta Public Schools (APS) and stated the blame will fall on the shoulders of those who were in charge of the district. Meanwhile, interim superintendent Erroll Davis noted that there will be severe consequences for those who participated in the cheating.
“There is no question that a complete failure of leadership in the Atlanta Public School system hurt thousands of children who were promoted to the next grade without meeting basic academic standards,” said the Atlanta Mayor.
Arne Duncan, United States Secretary of Education, called the cheating scandal “unfortunate.” Duncan called the need for transparency, but noted other schools are also facing “tremendous pressure” without resulting to cheating, reports the Associated Press.
APS will experience tremendous fallout. One of its donors is the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which noted that it will continue to make its donations and support the schools.
In 2007, the foundation provided $10.5 million to redesign Atlanta’s public high schools and last year, the APS received an additional $10 million for recruitment and hiring of teachers.
“The work we fund is making a difference for teachers and their students, and while we take this situation seriously, it shouldn’t prevent the district from doing what’s best for students,” said the foundation’s press secretary, Christopher Williams.
The district schoolboard is now firing all of implicated schools’ teachers and administrators. With a little more than a month to go until school begins, they will have to go through a lot of interviews.
More about atlanta public schools, cheating scandal, Arne duncan, Superintendent Beverly Hall, Governor Nathan Deal
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