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35 Educators, Alleged Cheaters, Report to Atlanta Jail

35 Educators, Alleged Cheaters, Report to Atlanta Jail

It’s the nation’s biggest teacher-cheating scandal.

On Friday, March 29, a grand jury charged 35 Atlanta educators with running a conspiracy in which standardized test scores were secretly raised in a ploy to get bonuses and ensure job security.

By the following Wednesday afternoon, April 3, all of the educators indicted in the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal had been booked into the Fulton County Jail.

This is surely a first in the annals of U.S. education. Let’s hope it’s also a last.

As Care2′s Amelia Thomson-Veaux wrote here in July 2011, a state probe in Georgia revealed widespread, systematic cheating in nearly half of Atlanta’s 100 public schools as far back as 2001. Over those ten years, the Atlanta public schools garnered significant acclaim for their steadily rising test scores. But then the truth came out.

Erasure Parties

Shockingly, cheating by teachers on standardized tests has been reported in 30 states, but the situation in Atlanta was truly egregious. As ProPublica reported here, teachers in Atlanta were so used to changing students’ answers on standardized tests that they gathered for “erasure” parties and prepared answer keys on plastic transparencies to make the cheating easier.

So much for all the values most of us teachers try to instill in our students.

Many Atlanta educators have already either lost their teaching licenses or had them suspended by education officials, but now it’s the turn of the criminal system. A team of state-appointed investigators spent 21 months looking into allegations that teachers and administrators at a handful of Atlanta schools routinely changed test scores or gave students correct answers. Their report became the basis for these criminal charges.

At the center of interest is Beverly L. Hall, the former school superintendent who rose through the education ranks in Newark and New York City and who was named superintendent of the year during her 12 years with the Atlanta district.

From The New York Times:

The teachers, principals and administrators had been told that they had to report to jail by Tuesday, at which time they could argue to have bail amounts as high as $7.5 million reduced. As evening came, only 18 had been processed, but several had won a break in their bond requirements.

Most notably, Dr. Hall negotiated her $7.5 million bond — considered a largely punitive figure set by the grand jurors, some of whom argued for it to be $10 million — down to $200,000. She was allowed to use her signature to cover $150,000 of it, with the rest to be paid in cash, said David Bailey, one of her lawyers.

She will pay only 10 percent of that, and most of it will be refunded, he said. Dr. Hall arrived at the jail to be processed around 7:30 p.m., surrounded by her lawyers. She left the jail about 11 p.m.

In addition to the former superintendent, the 35 arrested included a human resources director, several principals, other administrators, a testing coordinator, and some teachers. This was obviously a well-coordinated scheme, involving educators at all levels.

Their charges varied from racketeering and altering standardized test scores to accepting bonus money based on the falsified test results and lying to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation when they denied all knowledge of anyone giving students answers in the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests.

Educators Face 65 Charges

In total, these educators face 65 charges. Dr. Hall, who retired in 2011, was charged with racketeering, theft, influencing witnesses, conspiracy and making false statements. She continued to deny any knowledge of cheating.

If convicted, she could face up to 40 years in prison.

Meanwhile, a group of African-American clergy members and former educators have spoken out, pointing out that the investigators are white and the accused are largely black, and calling the charges racist.

It’s not so surprising that such a charge should be raised, implying that Ms. Hall and her educators are victims in some way.

High-Stakes Tests Are To Blame

The reality, however, is that none of this would have happened if it were not for standardized tests, which have become so high-stakes that they can determine the future of both a school and its administration. If used at all (they are not in other countries such as Finland), they should be only one of several measures used to evaluate students, not THE measure.

That absolutely does not excuse Ms. Hall and the other 34, who deliberately set up a system to enrich themselves, and cheat the good and honest teachers who try, however painfully, to both teach as they are mandated and educate their students at the time time.

If Ms. Hall and her cohorts  are found guilty, they have cheated not just the students, but also the teachers in her charge who believed in the value of a real education.

They have also damaged the reputation of the entire teaching profession.

Related Care2 Coverage

Systematic Cheating Found in Atlanta’s Schools

America’s Most Outrageous Cheating Scandals

Cheating on Standardized Tests Confirmed in 30 States

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57 comments

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5:58PM PST on Mar 8, 2014

standardized testing, especially linked to merit pay, is an abomination. That data indicates this; the morale of teachers indicates this; and the children indicate it by how poorly they do when they get to college. Just think if we used all that practice testing time for real education?

11:44AM PDT on Apr 29, 2013

Throw the book at them! They didn't just cheat the system; They cheated the kids. How are they going to advance in their education when they didn't learn, only got the top scores through cheating?

9:10PM PDT on Apr 18, 2013

The "3 R's" have been replaced by cheating?

4:17PM PDT on Apr 15, 2013

This is so sad...educators who care more about the scores than they do the students...

9:26AM PDT on Apr 14, 2013

Better read this one too.

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/04/13/1201483/-DC-City-Council-will-hold-hearing-on-cheating-under-Rhee

4:41AM PDT on Apr 14, 2013

Thanks for this article and yes the teachers should be held responsible and face the full consequences of their actions!!!

7:46AM PDT on Apr 12, 2013

I am a teacher and do not feel that what these teachers have done is right. But I do want to point out that teachers throughout the states are worried about losing their jobs due to continual education funding cuts. Teachers paychecks have also been lowered continuously due to these cuts. Imagine starting a job at 32,000 a year and 7 years later only be making 30,000 a year. Is that how we want to treat the educators of our children? Are we showing them any respect? Do we show them that we value them? No, being a teacher in this country is an underpaid, no guarantee job for the future.
I do not condone what these teachers have done, but I think it is the system that needs fixing not these individual cases.

3:32AM PDT on Apr 12, 2013

The nation mistakenly adopted this testing approach to teaching that Dubya Bush pushed on us.

You know, because Dubya was such an expert on education. "Is our children learning?"

3:28PM PDT on Apr 11, 2013

Regardless of the punishments that come out of this, it shows a cancer in the system.

You can try to fob off the blame on the tests, & the tests could well need looking at.

But the bottom line is that these people choose to take the easy way out, & it's NOT a victimless crime.

Each, & every child that wasn't taught, was a victim.

1:38PM PDT on Apr 11, 2013

While I think that these "Educators" should be stripped of all titles and be denied the opportunity to ever work within any school system ever again I feel that imprisoning people at the cost of $70.00 a day on the taxpayers dime for a non violent, victimless crime is inappropriate. Assess the damages these cheaters did and put a cash value to it. Then make them pay up.

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