FILED IN: Education

Atlanta teacher cheating scandal may be largest ever

Georgia governor reveals 178 teachers and principals accused of rigging test scores

Atlanta Schools Superintendant Beverly Hall

With the current push by many for merit pay for teachers based on test scores there may come an unintended consequence — widespread cheating.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal revealed on Tuesday that 178 teachers and principals in the Atlanta school district have been accused of gaming test scores, casting a shadow over recent gains claimed by the city’s public schools. Eighty-two of the 178 educators have already confessed.

The governor’s report on the Atlanta Public Schools described a “widespread conspiracy” to rig scores on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test (CRCT) as well as taking measures against any teachers that would go against the policy, according to an article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which has been conducting a months long investigation of Atlanta schools. The CRCT was implemented by the state to assess student proficiency by first through eighth grade in the “Georgia Performance Standards” in reading, English/language arts and mathematics. Third through eighth grade students are also tested in science and social studies.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed was reported as saying, “[The report] confirms our worst fears. There is no doubt that systemic cheating occurred on a widespread basis in the school system.”

A spokesman for the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, Robert Schaeffer, points out that the Atlanta incident is far from isolated, and two to three other cheating scandals a week nationwide had been discovered during the month of June. Schaeffer says, “When test scores are all that matter, some educators feel pressured to get the scores they need by hook or by crook. The higher the stakes, the greater the incentive to manipulate, to cheat.”

The Georgia report not only details teacher and principal cheating, but also troubling indicators that the school district actively refused to address the cheating, with some district administrators even ordering principals not to respond to investigator requests, with one even saying employees should “tell investigators to ‘go to hell.'”

The report specifically called out Superintendent Beverly Hall, calling her actions “unconscionable”  and that “in many ways, the community was duped by Dr. Hall.”

Investigators added, “While the district had rampant cheating, community leaders were unaware of the misconduct in the district. She abused the trust they placed in her. Hall became a subject of adoration and made herself the focus rather than the children. Her image became more important than reality.”